Humboldt Pie

In need of a break from my usual slacker routine, I visited Humboldt Pie Cafe yesterday afternoon. Quite a relaxing break I had.

I ordered only one thing, the Chai Latte, because that’s all I usually order in a cafe, thus that’s what I base my first cafe experience on. But let’s face it, a chai is a chai, and this one was just as delicious as any other I’ve had. What makes or breaks a place is the atmosphere.

Humboldt Pie wins for ambiance, as long as you stay inside. The decor had a bit of a neo-fifties feel, although the furniture was still very modern and not at all kitschy. Over all, it actually worked for me. The music ranged from early Beatles and Kinks to a current and quite eclectic variety. I actually found myself singing along. The couches were very comfortable and gave me a large corner window view of the activity outside.

Unfortunately, this is where the atmosphere breaks down. The name “Humboldt Pie” should clue you in to its location, and that view of… California and Augusta… just isn’t the prettiest view. Mind you, it’s highly entertaining, but I don’t know if this is the kind of regular entertainment I want to give myself. While I enjoyed my drink, I watched a shirtless drunkard pull a swivel chair up to the corner, right in front of the cafe’s door, sat down, and… I’m not sure what his agenda was. I think it mainly consisted of taking swigs from the brown paper bag he so unadroitely hid on the nearby lamppost. At one point he held up what appeared to be a chili pepper, yes, I’m pretty sure it was a chili pepper, just to display it to the passing traffic. After about an hour, the cops made an appearance to steal his chair and send him on his way.

There were similar events outside the cafe’s doors throughout the afternoon, and I’m sure this isn’t unusual. It’s interesting to note that the clientele inside the cafe was extremely different than the population passing by on the sidewalk. Now, don’t get me wrong; I used to work closely with communities like this. Nothing about it really scares me or anything, and in fact I was highly amused by everything going on for this one time. On the other hand, it had already got old by the time I took my last sip.

So Humboldt Pie is nice and relaxing and all, within its doors. I commend its efforts to be an oasis within this otherwise run-down community. However, there are plenty of other nice and relaxing places I can go to without having to walk through all that. I don’t think I’m going to be a regular patron.

2 Comments so far

  1. Carolyn (unregistered) on August 5th, 2005 @ 4:59 pm

    Oh please. In five years, the place will have highly rising rent and the previosuly-displaced-and-moving-west-old-art-crowd will be again picking up and moving out of HP. The place is already crawling with them. And just like any other somewhat sketch neighborhood on the cusp of yuppy-ing out, certain parts of the population (like those hanging out at the cafe) only come out at night (example: ask how The Clipper was a few years ago before the goldfish bowl look was installed), or evenings and weekends (see The Flying Saucer).

    HP definitely has a few years to go before it turns into the Wicker Park of 10 years ago. I say take it for what it is and hopefully go with the flow when it DOES turn into that version of the WP, because eventually it will turn into the WP of today. Sooner rather than later I think.

  2. tom (unregistered) on August 5th, 2005 @ 5:32 pm

    well carolyn, i’m not talking about 5 years ago, i’m talking about right now.

    i think you’re missing my point. my point is there are a lot of other places to go to where the outside scenery is more pleasant – no run-down, boarded up buildings or shirtless winos in need of a bath to look at. if that’s truly what you care to relax or whatever to, then have at it.

    yes, that’s been the current assumption for humboldt park’s future, and an establishment like this cafe is certainly a sign of that, however i’m not going to conjecture on gentrification trends. and whatever those buildings are going to look like 5 years from now really won’t help me tomorrow afternoon.

    “oh please,” indeed.

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