Sunday, April 5, 2015

@ Civilization in Cleveland's Tremont

Hold The Coffee returns to Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood this week to highlight a coffee shop with vintage flare.

This shoot was actually staged because I forgot to take 
the signature storefront photo when we left Civilization 
that afternoon. Doug was on his way back to work when I 
realized we still had to shoot this.
Civilization at 2366 W 11th St., has been staple of Tremont's dining and hangout scene for 25 years, and truthfully I am surprised I hadn't visited the place up until this year.

I've only been to Civilization twice. Once with Andrew Cass on a journey this past fall to expose ourselves to more of Cleveland's west side neighborhoods, and then recently Sunday, March 8, with Doug Vehovec to purposely feature the shop to this blog.

On both occasions, my coffee companion and I not only visited Civilization, but stopped by Loop, Tremont a coffee shop and record store. (The shop is only few blocks north of Civilization and it's a favorite spot for Andrew and I. Kinda of weird to see two coffee shops so close together, but as I tell most friends, there's never too many.)

This small garbage can on top of the bar counter is the
only one I found at the coffee shop both times I visited. You
can imagine it was full every time I needed it.
Location: Civilization is positioned as the classical, European-inspired, neighborhood coffee shop. It contracts its coffee from locally owned roaster City Roast Coffee, it's located inside a two-story building at the corner of two streets' filled with houses, apartments, businesses and retail, and most importantly, it sits away from public parking lots. Only a few coffee shops have their own parking lots, most have a municipal lot nearby, and some have at least diagonal street parking to accommodate drivers. None of this is true in the section of Tremont around Civilization.

Some may say it is hard to find free parking in Tremont--in fact I know plenty of people who say that. Unless Taste of Tremont is going on, I don't feel like I've had that problem. But I am also a type of person who parks first and then looks for my destination later, even if that means walking a mile away and passing through endless parking spaces closer by.

Like all city neighborhoods, Tremont is meant to be walked and cycled around--not driven and parked around. It's best that businesses like Civilization embrace that environment because it encourages denser housing and better transit. And besides, free parking is not really free and instead trickles down to the consumer or taxpayer.

Sigh, it would've looked so much better if we had mugs.
Food and Beverage: On my most recent visit earlier this month, I arrived to Civilization about 15 minutes before Doug, finding only one table for two available. That was no surprise. I've always known Civilization was a crowded hangout for neighbors living around Lincoln Park (The boy rock band has really tainted that name, I must say.)

Civilization offers some cold-cut sandwiches and baked goods, but I was interested only in coffee that day. I ordered a large coffee and a coffee-cake muffin for $3 and change.

As always, I ordered coffee "for here"--meaning poured in some sort of glassware, but I think the message was lost in loud environment because the barista returned with my coffee in a paper cup. The same happened to Doug 15 minutes later. I saw plenty of people around the cafe with mugs, and the paper cups did irk both of us a bit, despite how silly that might sound. Not so much because I care about environmental sustainability, but mostly because I knew my photo wasn't going to look nearly as glamorous without mugs.

I know nothing about decorating, but I would this a very
vintage interior, filled wooden surfaces and wooden furniture.
Space and Atmosphere: As I mentioned earlier, Civilization can get pretty busy in the morning and afternoon hours. But the crowd is more social and neighborly than what's seen at most coffee shops. The place carries Wi-Fi, but on both times I visited, the chit-chat-after-church crowds outnumbered laptop carriers easily 2-to-1. It's a place where stories and ideas are shared more between mouths and less by text displays and videos.

I think part of that is because Civilization has only a few bar counter seats, a very small amount compared to a Phoenix coffee shop, or most urban coffee shops I've visited. Although I love bar counters for their accommodation toward workers, I don't think they're needed at every coffee shop. Just like how some coffee shops are better working and reading environments than others, the same is true for picking a place to catch up over coffee with one or a few friends. Civilization is among that list of places, for sure.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via email--shusted@news-herald.com--or on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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