Happy Memorial Day, readers! As I type this, I’m running on three hours of sleep due to an unexpected event today and the social anxiety that inevitably accompanies them. Well, it is for me at least. Other people don’t fret about what will happen if they don’t get sleep, thereby sabotaging themselves into not getting any sleep. But hey, insomnia drives the need for temporary stimulants to make it through the day, and without that need, there would be no coffee or coffeehouse blogs. Life has come full circle.
Something else that has come full circle is local Harrisburg celebrity Callie Alvanatakis. To paraphrase Darth Vader, once she was but a learner. Now, she is the master. Callie has been a fixture around Pennsylvania’s capital city for quite some time, performing in local theater productions and working at various delis and such. Now, she’s launching her own production: Deco Grab and Go cafe. It launched during what was arguably the worst possible time for opening a new business; the winter of 2021. Ugh. To say that this move required tenacity is an understatement.
Deco is definitely an ambitious project. It’s a combination restaurant and coffeehouse, serving sandwiches and other lunch fare targeted to workers and politicians at the Capitol building who have to dine on the fly. I know what you’re thinking: Uh oh, a diner and coffeehouse? That means good food but crappy diner coffee. Such is thankfully not the case at Deco! Callie found a workaround. She’s partnered with the local roasting company Elementary Coffee, located right down the street. I’m fairly certain I did a write-up on them before. If I didn’t, that’s coming.
All of their coffee has a delicate quality to it. I ordered my usual house blend and could tell right away that it was distinctively smooth but airy. It was a Kenyan coffee, but it gave few outward indications; none of the typical citrus flavors were evident. I could have sworn it was an Arabica. That makes for a pretty breakfast blend, and it was a good choice to serve this on a fast-paced weekday morning.
Remember how I wrote early on about the connection between political philosophy, and coffee? That link was on full display at Deco the second I entered. There was a gaggle of politicians (Democrats by the tenor of the conversation) commiserating in the cafe and planning campaigns. The talk was a combination of bombast and tribal joviality, born of a profound self-certainty (just like a conversation between Republicans). They didn’t acknowledge, let alone address me. They could probably smell my discomfiting radicalism the moment I walked in the door. On the other hand, social transactions in Harrisburg can be rather brusque. In this city, everyone’s on the move.
It’s not surprising that Callie’s savoir-faire can put these hardened politicos at ease. I know her, and she dwells in the rarefied air of Harrisburg’s legitimate theater scene, among the movers and shakers. I perform poetry with a decidedly renegade element. That’s another big-city truth that doesn’t apply to the small towns we’ve been visiting lately for this project: There can be multiple art ‘scenes’ in a place like this. Tribes splinter. Subcultures emerge. A coffeehouse here can’t be everything to everyone…but it has to be everything to someone. I’m sure this cafe is everything to the hungry folks under the Dome.
Give this place a try if you stop by the Burg. Much like McGrath’s Pub down the road, you’ll be exposed to a cross-section of Harrisburg’s decision-makers and harried commuters. You’ll also be well-fed. The next leg of the journey is…well, it’s a toss-up. The Mountains portion is likely going to have to wait due to the slew of new places I’ll hopefully be visiting during the summer concert season. In the meantime, stay caffeinated and have a fine holiday.