As a teenager back in the mid-1990’s (remember those days?), my friends and I always went to the Inkwell Coffee House in Long Branch, NJ.
It was pretty gross…sticky floors, dirty tables, heavy cigarette smoke, and goth-wannabe servers with the appropriate touch of ennui and disdain. However, the Inkwell was open till 4:00am, made an amazing drink called “Dutch Coffee” (coffee, vanilla, cinnamon and butter…it’s good, you just have to be there), and offered “freshly cut apple slices” as a menu item.
I can still hear the strains of Nirvana Unplugged, Patty Smyth and the Cure piped in on the jukebox, while my friends and I (attired in berets and decked out in black nail polish) cadged cigarettes from the older patrons (the 18 year olds) and complained about how our parents were soooo out of touch. It was the official meeting place for white, suburban teens and suburban teen angst. God, I miss those days.
Driving past the Inkwell last week, I noticed a sign that advertised free Wi-Fi. I’ve been working on a grad project for the past few weeks, and have been looking for a study place that was not in my house, where I am easily distracted by people, house projects and my Yorkie. I decided to give the Inkwell another try.
The place has since gotten a new owner, and has had a minor re-do. Going up the rickety stairs into the “foyer” I was greeted with a large poster of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters from 1990’s classic Pulp Fiction. “This is promising”, I thought.
The clientele still has that touch of dirty I remember…mostly kids from nearby Monmouth University these days. The music is piped in from an alternative XM channel. Non-smoking restaurant laws have since gone into effect. The coffee house now serves chai. I think the board of health actually gives the Inkwell as passing grade now. And the Inkwell now accept credit cards.
I sort of felt like a fossil…a relic from a storied chapter in the coffee house’s history. The college kids bitched about class, bitched about their lovers and roommates. I zoned out and typed until midnight.
But they still serve Dutch coffee and sliced apples. And the service still sucks. And for me, those are reasons that still make me want to go to the Inkwell.