|Restaurant:||The Coffee Cup|
|Locations:||2909 N. Davidson Street|
|Cuisine:||Supposedly “soul food”|
|Rating:||3 out of 5 spoons|
There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that the Coffee Cup has, indeed, reopened in NoDa and, after a month of serving lunch only, is now opened for regular business (and even open late for those hanging out at Prevue or gallery crawling). The bad news? Well, the bad news is that the Coffee Cup has not reopened — some odd, trendy version of the Coffee Cup has opened and, unfortunately, fiddled with perfection.
I guess they felt they had to reinvent themselves after closing down two locations — the historic restaurant downtown and the struggling (but delicious) restaurant in the University area. I heard a rumor that they were thinking of adjusting their menu to be more health-conscious, but I thought that surely they knew that no one goes to eat soul food and worries about the fat content. Well, whether to be more health-conscious or simply to change their image, they’ve altered the key component that makes them the Coffee Cup: the FOOD. The food transcended the location, the restaurant building, the serving crew. Whatever reason their previous locations were unsuccessful (try letting the sanitation grade drop precipitously, not advertising much, etc.), it couldn’t have been the food. I feel a little like a very dear, tasty friend has died.
Don’t get me wrong; some things remain the same. The service is sweet and personal (it was our server’s first day, and though the timing of the meal was off, she was very attentive). The manager is very personable, kind, and intent on making your meal enjoyable. The locale is cute, well-decorated, and placed conveniently in the heart of NoDa.
The Coffee Cup’s hip new locale
The only real problem is the food. Where has the soul food gone?! Let’s survey the casualties:
1. Gone are the thick-cut pork chops slathered in opaque, fatty gravy. In their place is served pork scaloppine: thin, a little tough, and peppery. I asked if they could still smother the chops, though it’s not listed on the menu (that’s right — no more “smothered” option!), and they obliged, but with a decidedly thin, watery gravy. While this version of smothered pork chops is good, I wouldn’t go back to the Coffee Cup to get them again. I had dreams about the old version — dreams, I tell you! Just look at the difference:
Top: The University area Coffee Cup’s Smothered Pork Chops.
Bottom: NoDa Coffee Cup’s so-called “Smothered Pork Chops.”
2. Gone are the big fluffy waffles. If you get Chicken and Waffles now, the waffle has gone granola. It’s more like something you’d find at Zada Jane’s (where they’d do it better, because it’s their “thing”) than a soul food restaurant: it has a hint of cinnamon/nutmeg, and I think they actually used wheat flour. Don’t get me wrong, wheat flour has a place in this world. But that place is not in the kitchen of a soul food restaurant. This is yet another example of how the Coffee Cup still offers good food, but not great food. Not unique food. Not the kind of soul food that I would crave, feel driven to tell friends about, and seek out every weekend without fail. That’s what the old Coffee Cup offered.
Also, perhaps this was another issue stemming from having a novice waitress, but they brought the chicken and waffle out separately! Slap that chicken on that waffle, man!
Top: The University area Coffee Cup’s Chicken and Waffles.
Bottom: NoDa Coffee Cup’s “Chicken and Waffles.”
3. Gone are . . . (gasp) the biscuits. Well, in a manner of speaking. They do still have similar biscuits. And these biscuits still beat plenty of biscuits in Charlotte. But something’s missing. I think, in keeping with the idea of making a “healthier” version of soul food, they’ve cut down on the butter or shortening or something. They just weren’t as addictive, and I felt embarrassed when my sister tried them (after I’d been raving about them for a year) and wasn’t impressed. They were more crumbly, more dry, less greasy and fantastic. I’m sure other dishes have changed in addition to those I’ve mentioned here, but I can’t bear to go back to find out. The biscuits are the final straw. The Coffee Cup is dead to me! </melodrama>
Just to add to my sorrows, the Coffee Cup apparently doesn’t really have those little jelly packets for the biscuits anymore (or our waitress didn’t know about them). They brought out a mostly empty jar in response to my request, and I have to admit, sharing a communal jelly jar with who-knows-what-other-customers made me a little squirmy. The waitress also came back promptly to retrieve it because they needed it . . . which was very weird! Is there not jelly dedicated to customer consumption? I know, I know, a whole paragraph on the jelly incident. But I think it’s warranted. It’s sort of a metaphor for the entire Coffee Cup experience at this point: it falls short of your expectations, disappoints you, and is then taken away too soon (as I predict the Coffee Cup will be yet again, given this new menu).
I should really make it clear that the Coffee Cup is not lousy. It’s good. Good food, good service, and if I’d never known about the other Coffee Cup, I might be satisfied with that. The macaroni and cheese was actually phenomenal, perhaps the only thing better than the old version. The restaurant gets 3 stars for being good. I just can’t help but shake my head at the fact that they changed the food. The FOOD! The food was perfect, delicious, fattening, sultry, exceptional! There was nothing in Charlotte to compare, and that’s why people kept coming back. Please, dear Coffee Cup, consider serving some soul food again. Until then, I’ll see y’all at Price’s Chicken Coop! They know, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Have you been to the new “improved” Coffee Cup? Are you also aghast, or do you like it better? Any other good soul food recommendations? Share your thoughts by clicking on the “Comments” link below.