Coffee in Downtown Worcester

posted by Mike on August 17th, 2005

Bruce Last week, Bruce and I walked across town to visit the much-lauded Billy Goat Beanery coffeehouse. They were closed. (The Pulse thinks they’re out of business, but the woman in the bookstore below the coffeehouse told us they’re negotiating a new lease and will be back soon. Update: The old Billy Goat is now the Belfry Cafe. Check out Bruce’s review.)

We had a lukewarm cup of coffee at a nearby restaurant. Nothing to write home about.

But this gives us an excuse to post an interview we did with Bruce a few months ago about the coffee of downtown Worcester, Mass.

The interview took place at Bruce’s home, where he was watching Halloween on cable.

Pie and Coffee: You have more channels than God.

Bruce: Yeah, but God doesn’t watch telly.

What kind of parents don’t take their kids trick-or-treating on Halloween?

It depends on if the parents are going out, and they don’t want to take the kids out. Or they don’t want the baby sitter to take the kids out.

I would think, in this town, the baby sitter could certainly take the kids trick-or-treating.

Yeah, but it would probably be up to the permission of the parents.

What’s your feeling about coffee?

Well, it depends. Some coffee’s good, some coffee’s not. I’ve tried a lot of different types of coffee. Some are alright. Some are not so good.

Shell [gas station] coffee is better than it was, when they first had it. Some of them are bold flavored, too. It’s not hot, not too strong. Kinda in between. I mean, it’s strong, but not as strong as like Starbucks or something.

If somebody was visiting downtown Worcester, and they were looking for a cup of coffee, where would you send them?

Probably the White Hen. It’s got a flavor to it. It’s not too bitter, goes down smooth. They have different varieties of flavored coffee, if you want the cappucino or the French vanilla in the machine, there. They have a choice of milk, or creme, or half-and-half. You can buy sandwiches there. In wintertime they have hot soups, and spaghetti sometimes. They have a lot of fruit, plus you can do your shopping, pick up some odds and ends like coffee, soda. Or your dish detergent.

Does anything ever happen at the White Hen?

It’s kind of quiet. The service is good, real good.

Where do you get most of your coffee?

Java Joe’s. I guess I go down there a lot lately to help Joe, to go to the store for Joe.

What’s it like down there? Is there a good crowd?

Yeah. Everybody there at Joe’s knows me now, most of the people say hi to me or whatever.

What else is on your map of coffee in downtown Worcester?

I would stay away from McDonald’s and Burger King. The coffee there’s not so good.

If you go down to Kelley Square, you can get Dunkin Donuts coffee at the gas station there. Me and Dave used to stop by there when we would go to the farm in Winchendon.

Speaking of Dunkin Donuts, what about the downtown Dunkin Donuts?

The one there by the tower is pretty good. The one by St. V’s hospital is not too bad, either.

What’s the atmosphere like there?

Well, the one downtown closes at like 7. They have a good crowd in there.

What about St. John’s?

Their coffee’s good.

Good service?

Yeah.

Anything ever happen in there?

I get to make Father John laugh. He laughs at all my jokes. My friend Ray goes there.

The last time we were in there, a guy was threatening to kill people.

Yeah.

When you think of a coffee place, how important is the coffee and how important is the atmosphere?

If you have a poor attitude, and you’re serving coffee, then you’re going to have a poor attitude about the coffee that you’re serving.

Where do they have a poor attitude?

They could just be having a bad day, or they don’t like serving customers or whatever.

Do you ever go to some of the other coffeehouses, like the Bean Counter or the Java Hut?

The Bean Counter is a bit far from where I am. I don’t usually get up to that neck of the woods, or to Java Hut.

Java Hut’s pretty much of a jazz place, anyways. They don’t really have any rock bands.

They have folk bands sometimes. But it’s not a hard-rocking place. It would be pretty cool if there was a heavy metal coffee shop.

Yeah. Java Hut in my opinion is kinda like Tammany Hall. Because Tammany Hall is not really a rock club, or a metal club, either. It’s kind of a jam band thing, and nobody’s getting any big publicity, or major radio play. It’s kind of like Ralph’s. You can play original music there, but nobody there gets major label support.

Do you ever go to any other coffee shops?

Honey Farms is alright. The one down on Park Ave, they have Beantown there.

What do they have at Java Joe’s? Green Mountain?

Yeah. He gets a different flavor every month.

Do you like flavored coffee?

Yeah. I’m drinking de-caf now. It’s better for my stomach. It doesn’t bother my acid reflux. I try to limit myself to three cups of regular caffeinated coffee, for morning breakfast. Sometimes I make myself de-caf with a little regular. But I won’t drink a full cup of regular coffee.

Is there any brand in particular that you’re loyal to?

I like the Folger’s the best. I like to Foelj.

Do you like to fold?

Yeah. A good folding atmosphere.

When I used to go to Manhattan twice a week, to do shows and stuff, we used to go down to this rehearsal space, practice for a couple hours. And down Eighth Avenue, where Broadway crosses through, was a bagel and coffee shop. And I’d get my bagel and my espresso there.

Are there any lessons that Worcester coffee could learn from Manhattan coffee?

No, not really. I had espresso at Cinema North once. And at Starbucks in Marlboro, where I got my guitar.

What do you think about Starbucks?

Pretty good. It’s kind of strong, though. I can drink it once in awhile, but I couldn’t drink it all the time.

I’m not a big fan of Starbucks’s corporate policies.

I’ve had Turkish coffee before too. It’s kind of strong. It’s not as strong as Puerto Rican coffee. The first time I met Jose, I had a cup of it. It was strong, and sweet.

Red-haired Jose? That guy’s nuts.

I know. Good thing his last name’s not walnut. How can somebody be half-nuts if they’re all nuts? He could be a mixed nut.

Like I say, I have all the copyrights to originality.

Do they have coffee at John Street Baptist Church?

Yeah, it’s pretty good.

What about Bill’s Place?

Their regular coffee is not as strong. It’s kind of weak. I think it’s mostly water.

You could start drinking that instead of de-caf.

Yeah, I probably should.

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