Unicorn Café on Sherman Avenue is at a comfortable capacity, much like a cup of its hot chocolate: satisfyingly full but not overwhelmingly so, left with a bit of breathing space.
When it was rescued from the corporate grasp of a coffee chain in 2003, this independent coffee house adopted its own sense of style, evident in the faded yellow paint job, the generous milk and sugar station, the cans of local coffee displayed at the counter, and the unicorn portrait displayed proudly in the center of the menu.
Study sessions inside the café fill the warm, perfumed air with a soft chorus of voices. A man staring at his computer jiggles his foot impatiently, a side effect of one too many cups of coffee. A woman in the corner leans lightly with her elbows on the tabletop’s worn marble, and it trembles under the weight. The chairs emit a low creak every time a patron stands or sits.
The cashier stands directly behind the elevated counter, like a captain stands behind the upper railing of his ship, watching over his crew. He displays an armful of tattoos. After patiently telling a customer at the counter that the 16-oz cup is just called medium, not grande, he hand-delivers a sandwich to a patron’s table with a small smile.
He spends his free time washing chipped mugs, contributing a rhythmic clinking to the chaotic harmony of caffeinated voices. Otherwise, he walks around slowly picking up empty plates and cleaning off tables. His gangling stroll offsets the customers’ quick-paced power walk. When a favorite comes in, he greets him by name and asks about his classes before handing back a few bills, being lenient with change for the regular’s regular.
The box of well-played board games sitting in the corner and the scuffs on the wood paneling tell a love story of the way caffeine addicts are drawn to this one-of-a-kind café, a friend’s house when home is too far away.
– a piece I wrote for my journalism class (descriptive story)
– an abridged version was originally published in the print edition of the NU Chronicle