Java 

...then the other.

At 5:02 p.m., work was over and I needed a caffeine-flavored pick-me-up. I was already downtown, so I hopped into Java.

Let me set the stage: I love joe and I drink it every day, but I'm not much of a coffee shop person. In general, they seem the epitome of high school pretentiousness: bad poetry, chess and words I feel stupid having to say, such as "grahn-day!"

My friend Duke met me at the joint. Reggae filtered through the speakers and the chalkboard menu read "FOOD SERVED NOON-4." Aw, snap! We were too late to order off the menu, so we grabbed some tea steeped from ridiculously large tea bags and a sunrise muffin-a square-shaped orange concoction filled with millet and topped with icing and a mandarin slice. It was delish. Then we headed out.

The next day, we returned at 11 a.m., in time for breakfast. The menu prices were out of control. Six clams for two poached eggs? Three bucks for a bowl of Cap'n Crunch? Either those eggs are golden goose-laid or this place is going for the pretentious vibe.

Duke ordered confetti eggs, which were flecked with orange cheese, green onions and tomatoes, with salsa on the side. I got the breakfast croissant and a cup of joe. I was $15 lighter, but they made it fresh and brought it out to the couch where we sat. "You think someone here likes Andy Warhol?" Duke asked, referring to the dozen-plus pop-art posters lining Java's walls.

Java is actually a wonderfully bright and comfortable place-perfect for getting stuff done, apparently, because most everyone was there solo, doing work on their laptops (as Java offers free wi-fi Internet).

As we scarfed the wee portions garnished with sad fruit slices, I noticed a sign on the front door that says the coffee is "free trade." Lovely idea, but methinks it strange that our "for here" cups are the paper kind with insulating sleeves made from some variant of post-consumer fiber. If you're gonna tout your good guy coffee mantra, why not use washable mugs? Coffee karma doesn't end once the beans are roasted.

Duke and I liked Java. The vibe was a lot less pompous than I expected; it was just relaxed (though there was a chess set nearby). I won't be back to try a $3 bagel, but I will come back for a cup of joe and I'll probably bring some work, too.

-Jennifer Gelband can't even open her laptop computer until she's had her cuppa.

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