4/5 stars for insulated sylvan dwelling space, and a cup of coffee that inspires introspection.
Café Bené is located just off the 63 bus route, and provides the solace needed to accept the fact that it is nearly April and still not above 35 degrees. Feeling the chill, I came into the shop craving something cozy, and was seduced by the café mocha promising me a steamy espresso experience, infused with a gentle chocolate caress. After taking a sip, all I can say is this drink is a bit indecisive. Though it is a café mocha, it can’t seem to decide what its dominant trait is — coffee or mocha. While in my esteemed opinion a well crafted mocha bursts with espresso, chocolate trailing along only on its endnotes, this mocha fell into the lukewarm middle of the mocha scale. It wasn’t the expertly crafted ass-kick of caffeine I was hoping for, nor was it the disgraceful kind of mocha that is weak coffee doused in chocolate syrup. No, this mocha was a middle of the road boy-o. Trying to decide which path to go down. Perhaps reflecting back the internal identity crisis of the very young male barista who prepared it. At the crossroads between boy and man, hot chocolate youth and bitter adolescence.
The artificially sweetened whip cream resting atop the drink left a bitter taste in my mouth, but I suspect this bitterness was at least partially fueled by the begrudging acceptance that my own youth has gone. To take a sip and be reminded of a time when your life wasn’t just cup after cup of bitter coffee, to take a sip and actively recognize that you wouldn’t rather be drinking hot chocolate – that kind of deep soul-searching takes a toll. But if there was ever a place to do some casual Monday afternoon soul-searching I would recommend this place. It provides an insulated sylvan dwelling place to take these sips, and with these steps, to better understand ourselves. And while this is a middle of the road boy-o of a mocha, at least the chocolate is Ghirardelli.
Café Bené is located at 53 Cleveland Ave S in St. Paul.