Central perk

There is no such thing as a café that is “too cute.” It is impossible. “Too cute” should not be in a café owner’s vocabulary. Cute and café go together like adorkable and Deschanel. If a café owner is questioning whether he or she should put a fainting couch in their place of business, the answer is to put two, followed by an antique end table with a Mickey Mouse telephone sitting on it.

When it comes to cafés and cute, there can never be overkill. That is part of the allure of a café. If I just wanted a beverage, I would use the drive through at a Mickey D’s. But if I am actually going to sit in a place, drink a hot beverage, possible have a pastry, and either write, read, or converse with an actual human being (God forbid), then I want… nay, need… that place to be cute as f*#k.

Based on its name alone, all cafés need to be cute. If the word that you are looks cute (that accent above the letter “e” is to die for) and if the word that you are sounds cute (trying saying “café” in an angry tone – just can’t be done), then you sure as s*#t better look cute. If I am paying five dollars and forty-two cents for a mug of coffee, then the place I am purchasing it from better have an old-timey snow sled on its wall. And that mug better be a handcrafted ceramic (with the word “coffee” written on it in Cookie Monster font) fired up in the back of the café that is also used as an art studio where senior citizens can take pottery classes.

Maybe I was heavily influenced in my younger days by watching the gang of “Friends” hang out at The Central Perk. That café was so goddamn cute that it made me barf up a fuzzy orange kitten that would proceed to play with a ball of yarn in a ray of sunshine. I didn’t really care about hanging out with Ross and Rachel so much as I did sitting in a place where everyone lounged on a super comfy couch in public. The creator of “Friends” understood the importance of creating a cute environment where their cute cast could do cute things. And I firmly believe that that show singlehandedly made the oversized coffee mug popular, and few things in life are as cute as an oversized coffee mug.

For those of you who think that cafés that invest in cuteness are trying too hard, I counter with, “So friggin’ what?” Don’t you want your café to try hard? If a place is going to be whimsical, then it should go balls out on the whimsy. If it’s going for a living-room feel then randomly throwing down an armchair and a coffee table seems lazy and pointless. Make it an actual living room with family photos, throw rugs, and lost and abandoned toys hidden between the sofa cushions. If you are going for cute then go for it like a mofo. There are plenty of cafés to go to that are boring and staid – I believe they are called  “Starbucks.”

Aesthetics aside, a cute café just feels comforting and inviting. Board games from the 1970’s, weathered, hardcover books lining the shelves, black and white photos of Parisian city life on the exposed brick walls – all of these just whisper softly to you, “Hey, come hang out awhile. The world is a big, scary place. But it’s nice in here.” Those accents and accoutrements are what turn a normal café into a full-blown cute fest. No folk singers, though. That just kills the cute.

There is no need to shy away from the cute if that is what you are going for. So if you are a café that has a punny name, a drink list written in crayon on giant construction paper, a working fireplace, and decorated to be made to look like a farmhouse kitchen, chances are I think you are the greatest café ever created and I will be a regular customer of your fine establishment.

And I don’t even like coffee.