The mind's eye may often deceive. Is this because of a little understood neurological filtering mechanism which places greater emphasis upon positive experiences than negative? I do not have an answer but I do know up until this morning Main Street Cafe and Bread Baking Company never failed to live up to, and often exceed, previous encounters.
The coffee was superb, the pastries in a class of their own, the breakfast selections so consistently great the only difficult decision was which to order. In my many past visits I believe I had ordered nearly every one.
But there are restaurants and coffee shops which serve the same fare, indeed Main Street supplies other local shops with some of their baked goods.
Yet there was something more about the little bistro which made it a destination worth passing others by. It held a unique position in its manner of placing an order, filling your cup with the coffee of your choice, asking for and cheerfully receiving fresh cream, then selecting a table to place your order flag upon.
You threaded your way along the bakery display debating what tasty offering to choose or perhaps struggling with the age old dilemma of 'should I order a cruller or forgo the pastries and opt for a full breakfast?'
In any case you would never be wrong. The result always a step above full satisfaction. You left with the anticipation of your next visit.
What happened? I asked myself the same question today.
It had been several months since I had an opportunity to pass through its doors. Even before doing so the note placard on the sidewalk tables gave me pause. They all said something to the effect of sitting at one required permission of the host.
The Host? What Host? I soon discovered the inside world of this delightful gem to have been turned if not inside out at least 90 degrees.
In my last few visits improvements were well underway with added seating, updated restrooms, and a full-service bar. These were welcome and unobtrusive changes for the essence of what made this little bistro stand out remained. There was the maniacal ordering routine which sometimes occurred at high traffic times.
There was the aforementioned slow march along the bakery counter to add temptation. There were the menu cards placed somewhat haphazardly in the holder at the end of the counter.
There were the self-service coffee pumps and water dispenser. The kitchen staff, hurried but not harried, individually preparing orders which would be sent to the tables by additional multitasking staff.
This particular duty called for them to search out the number card corresponding to the order as it stood sentinel in the holder placed upon the patron's table of choice. An order may take two or three trips to complete.
It was a chaotic and inefficient process which was carried out with aplomb by an always accommodating team. A team they were because what else but a team could day in and day out handle the ever-changing choreography required to deliver not only excellent food but human interaction as well?
And now, sadly, it has become one of a hundred other similar restaurants within a day-old sweet roll's throw of the Metroplex.
The term bistro scarcely applies. It has fallen so far from the precipice it passed
La Madeleine on the way down. A great group of restaurants in their own right, but Main Street was always a cut above.
Seating is now accomplished with the same care as is the custom in an Amtrak dining car; fill each table before moving on to the next. Amtrak does it out of operational necessity, Main Street, why? To create in their clientele the feeling of being a sardine?
The host, while smiling a trained corporate smile, seemed oblivious to the fact a couple may want to be a little removed from a table featuring obvious business associates.
The ordering process has been standardized to match every other sit down restaurant from Denny's to Perkins Cake and Steak.
The server's accent, which may have been genuine, unfortunately ended up being seen in the same light as the French Flags and model Eiffel Tower hovering from the ceiling; accouterments meant to convey a feeling the new environment no longer sustains.
What of the food? Indeed. The quiche of bygone days (more like a couple months ago) was always fresh, appropriately warm, and of excellent texture. It never failed to engage four of the five senses with the fifth, sound, being either ones own "Oh my, this is outstanding!" or "Mmmm "
The 'La Parisian' an exacting combination of scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh croissant, and breakfast potatoes.
Today, the quiche had the same texture and flavor of recently broken apart ceramic floor tiles; hard and bland and room temperature. The eggs of the La Parisian were salvaged by the addition of copious amounts of salt and pepper. The formerly crisp bacon slices were forgettable limp strips. The croissant was not bad but the same thing could be said of those found in a package of Pillsbury Pop n' Fresh dinner rolls. The potatoes were the highlight of the meal. This is not a compliment.
And finally, the coffee. Tears begin to flow in the recollection.
The cups had the same name embossed on their outside as before but the liquid inside bore no relation to either the regular or decaffeinated varieties whose aromas formerly inhabited 316 South Main.
The final insult being the tepid temperature of the coffee despite repeated refills which, of course, you no longer handle on your own.
An alert person may ask, "Why didn't you say something?" To this I can only say it was like witnessing an unbeatable heavyweight champion taking
a beating from some thick-necked palooka from a basement level boxing gym; stunned disbelief until too long after the former champion's pummeled body has been dragged from the ring.
I wish I could say this is perhaps an aberration but the manner in which the final death knell of corporate insight has been struck against this once paramount establishment suggests it will only be so again in Facebook memory postings.
RIP Main Street, we loved you until the day you succumbed.
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