3909 Camp Bowie Boulevard
(between Montgomery and Crestline)
When my friend Rick and I stepped into The Cup, I had one of those flashbacks that can make you think you've entered a time portal, and were going to be forced to relive an unpleasant childhood. Four women of a certain age, expensively dressed and absorbed in conversation, were seated in a circle between the door and the counter, with empty cups and a tray of pastries uneaten on the coffee table. I thought I had stumbled into that period of my youth, circa 1970, when life seemed to be infested with these society types, coyly issuing platitudes to one another, claws a-quiver in their sheaths, knives ready to hand in Italian-leather shoulder bags. I made it a point to find a seat out of sight of the group, who were probably no more lethal to bystanders now than they were then, but with whom interaction is to be avoided. Sadly, it was too chilly for the attractive patio out back, but we found our refuge.
We were just there to find a light breakfast and kill some time before the Kimbell Museum opened at noon, and I've always felt comfortable enough in Fort Worth's near-west side, an area where women dress for committee meetings while men dress for the stock yards, and everyone seems to be doing fund-raising for one charity or another, usually connected to TCU or the museums down the street. The Cup has not long been on the Boulevard; its pedigree stretches back only to around July, but it is a perfect fit with its surroundings: clean, tastefully decorated, only slightly fru-fru (which I'm sure most of its customers would call "understated"), with the air of an elegance that considers Camp Bowie Boulevard to be the winter home of knowledgeable Fifth Avenue denizens. The Christmas decorations were up: several dozen monochromatic silver ornaments hanging on ribbons from the acoustic-tile ceiling over the service area, an arrangement I found a pleasing contrast to the usual clutter of holiday gewgaws, doodads and whatnots.
Well, that's OK; we just wanted coffee and a little something to eat. We turned out to have made a fortunate choice. (Everybody gets lucky, some time.)
The counter attendant was helpful, if not quite knowledgeable about coffee culture. When I asked her if their coffee was slow-drip, she shrugged and said, with a slight grin of confusion, "I guess." It turns out the correct answer was "no," which was what I'd expected. While slow-drip coffee is de riguer in snootier locations on the Left and Right Coasts, here in the Real World it's the sort of impractical, wasteful thing one associates with rom-com movies and snobs on the Left and Right Coasts. It was plain ol' high-quality drip coffee.
The coffee is illy, an Italian brand, which appealed to my distaff side, and is good stuff even without the benefit of prejudice. It hovers between the burned-corn taste of American coffee, which I like when it's not too strong, and the bitter taste of dredged-up river-bottom that characterizes coffee in Europe and, from what I hear, other parts of the Old World. At The Cup, we were served fairly thick coffee that reminded me of the best I've had in Latin America. I'm not one of those people who view coffee as an art form; I think of it as a drink, one that forces me to relax while it cools, then revs me up with a dose of caffeine. This coffee did that, and did it well.
For the light meal, I went with the vaguely named Breakfast Sandwich: ham and cheese with a poached egg on something called a "morning round," for about $4. I chose it because I wanted something to bitch about, and when the cheerful young lady behind the counter described it, I thought I had my subject. Alas, no; it proved to be not just good, but very good. The ham had a hint of rosemary about it; the cheese was good quality Swiss, not that oily corner-cutting stuff you often get; the poached egg was actually poached, and poached correctly, to just the right degree of doneness to give you all the flavour and none of the gelatinous liquidity of an undercooked egg. And the "morning round" turned out to be a sort of better Pepperidge Farms version of raisin bread, with a soupçon of maple sweetness. The whole thing got some time in a panini press and I was presented with a breakfast of exquisite flavour and texture. If I'd been hungry, I'd've ordered another.
Rick, who seemed on this trip to be on a quest for the Kolache Of The Gods, ordered a couple of sausage bagels, which are breakfast sausages wrapped in bagel dough to resemble kolaches. They must have been good — they certainly looked good: slightly reddish sausage links in admirably browned wrappings — because they disappeared before I could make a detailed inquiry.
We enjoyed another cup of coffee, and chatted with the shop's owner, a pleasant, sensible-seeming woman who is the spitting image of Van Cliburn's piano teacher's daughter (except, forty years younger). She, I suspect, is as much at home with the junior-league crowd that frequents her shop as she is with the boots-and-jeans crowd that passes by on the way to Denny's.