El Camino Blog

That's the fact, Jack!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bloomington Coffee Houses: Soma

SOMA, 322 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN, 5:05pm, September 3, 2006: I’m still slightly enervated by my awful experience at the Copper Cup. Eager to put it behind me, I tramp down to the Soma on Kirkwood. Ahh, where to start? I love this place! It’s got the character, the AMBIENCE! Some cutesy mid-70s band is being piped in over the PA. Lovely. I find myself pleasantly ensconced in a dirty, scratchy, salmon-tinted 60’s “glitter-cloth” couch (don’t crash on this thing if you’re hung over, ouch). The very low ceiling hovers above, giving a snug, intimate feel to the place. A ‘disco-floor’ patterned red/purple/white/yellow linoleum floor features decades of wear. There’s a flyers-and-posters area, improbably scrunched-in opposite the couch corner, to give you a heads-up on the bands coming to town. Postcards are offered for sale, on a revolving rack. Kitschy example: “The French Way: Tales of Love and Passion! Featuring: Love’s Awakening, The New Sensation, Forbidden Fruit..” (this appears to be a vintage ad for a pulp fiction collection). A fish-tank-in-an-old-TV-set serves as the focal point for the front lounge. Soma occupies part of a basement in an old stone house at Kirkwood and Grant streets, close to the action epicenter of IU. The 3 or 4 servers behind the counter are very helpful and efficient. My double mocha was quite delicious. To justify my giddiness: It isn’t just the coffee, the kitsch, and the service. Inside and out, Soma possesses a fun, jovial atmosphere, with a lively mix of comfy regulars, chatty co-ed bunnies and their beaus, and amused alums such as myself. The student patrons, for their part, seem to fall into irreverent character before they even cross the threshold. I saw a bubbly, slightly chunky young gal playfully kick the door open to mark her arrival; patrons are swept up by the fun vibe of the place. The help have fun, too; lots of kidding and witty banter going on, the clattering of dishes, impromptu humming along with the music, and a disarming neighborliness when asked tangential questions about the place (such as “what band are you guys playing over the speakers?"). As much as folks like to come in and browse or sit down, you see a lot of apparently regular student patrons, who rush in, grab the finished beverage with fury, and rush back out on their way to another destination. They're stopping by because the coffee's really that good; these days, of course, you can pick and choose your java in a Big Ten college town. Soma hits the bull’s-eye on its product alone. Maybe I’m sounding over-the-top, but I’ve never been so taken in by a casual place. An hour passed away on the couch, and it felt like 15 minutes. I can’t get enough of it. Maybe sometime I’ll get sloshed at Nick’s and collapse into unconsciousness on the scratchy couch. 4 stars.

UPDATE: OK, I’m tragically unhip, the music WAS NOT 70’s-era, it’s ‘Belle and Sebastian’, and it’s “pretty new”, according to a mutton-chopped barkeep. D’oh!!


Post a Comment

<< Home