Monday, May 17, 2010

Simple, Serious Coffee: Perk & Play

At Perk & Play, they are proud of their foam.

They're proud of the coffee that's under that foam, too, but this is the only coffee shop in town where they give you a demitasse spoon to go with your drink, "so you can enjoy all that foam!" The foam in question is pretty good (even if it doesn't really belong on a latte), and it comes with artistic leaf shapes made by the barista. Never mind that mine looked slightly like a penis; I appreciate the effort.

Their coffee drinks are served in big ceramic mugs that you can enjoy in the store's eclectic interior, which is part coffee shop, part nursing-home events center. This is a store that is as earnest about its Perk as it is about its Play.

IMG00249.jpgThe menu here is all about the coffee: espresso drinks dominate the menu, starting at $2 for a simple shot and rising through $5 for large versions of their Frappes or a specialized flavor concoctions. There's a little snackage available in a cold case and a bakery case: string cheese, locally made muffins and cookies, and some packaged juices and milk for the kids. This isn't the place you come for lunch, though -- it's the place you come to get away from the lunch crowd. There's a puzzle on the card table toward the back, a towering bookshelf full of vacation thrillers (John Grisham) and local favorites (Bowerman and the men of Oregon). The store has two cozy chair sections and several big and small tables, but the standout feature here is a tiny section built just for kids. Yes, this may be the only coffee shop in Eugene (at least that I can think of) where kids are not only welcome, but catered to. There are some pleasantly quiet toys, and some pleasantly hand-printed rules: kids are welcome, if they're kept entertained and relatively quiet. ("Active Supervision is Needed at All Times!"). The owner/barista who served me later engaged happily with a mother and child who stopped in for a much-needed espresso, and no one in the shop seemed at all disturbed by the child's delight over the provided storybooks.

Perk & Play has a back patio, but it doesn't seem to be in use anymore; instead, a few small tables crouch on the sidewalk that wraps around the corner store.

There's a certain earnestness to the place, and to its owners and employees, that bleeds through into everything they do. Their doorways and paper cups are hand-rubber-stamped with the "Handcrafted Espresso" logo, and this is what they seem to take the most pride in. They know their coffee. They will, at the slightest provocation, treat you to a small, friendly lecture on its origins, its taste, how carefully it's made, and how good it will taste when they hand it over.

That part isn't a lie. This is a pretty good coffee stop, usually quiet, and sadly tailored only to those who don't work 8-5. Still, with free wifi and no particular judgment against patrons who linger, it's not a bad place to study or relax with a cup of that hand-crafted espresso.

Location: 2866 Crescent Ave., Eugene

Hours: M-F 6 a.m. -- 5 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. -- noon.

Perk and Play on Urbanspoon

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