Wonderful wonderful café


I’m in Ann Arbor’s Café Felix and it’s practically poetic. At the very instant I organize myself into a chair, lean in to sip from my oversized coffee cup and open the pages of a book, the cool jazz begins to play. To add to the dream-like circumstance, my drink looks fake. The sea of foam atop appears to have found a perfect white point -- and is chased by a swirl of espresso right through the middle of the froth. I pinch myself, so this is indeed real. And every finishing touch within the butter-colored walls of Café Felix is indeed, as the French say, ‘Au point.’

The décor is European to the hilt. It is my approximation that this young, fair-haired founder named Felix must have been an art history major at U of M. And he is testing me, as I sit at my private table in the back of a large room. He’s forcing me (a raucous Detroiter), to reconsider my old-school roots of cool formality in such a refined atmosphere. In an awkward attempt to act casually, my midnight-blue glazed cup clinks onto the ivory-speckled saucer beneath it, and already I spill a bit onto the glass table top. "Merde!’ I exclaim to myself. But not to worry, a stiff bright white cloth napkin lifts the mark swiftly and not-a-one of the primped and coifed have noticed. I continue with the cinematic moment (quickly becoming a Chaplin shortie) and ease out a menu. And although at this late part of the evening I should be drinking a merlot like the rest of them – I know French hors d’oeuvres improve a good café au lait.

At Café Felix the tradition of a European café holds true to form. Starbucks never had such a prime wine assortment. As this impressive wet selection passes by me atop black trays, the reds are dark as blood and the whites are sparkling like gold. And I make a mental note: a dark red I will try with an asparagus crepe and omelette Norvegienne (potatoes and Norwegian Salmon omelette). For now, I sip my café made with espresso Segafredo (the finest of coffee in Italy) and if my self-awareness doesn’t let up, I might switch to an icy cocktail. The jazz still plays and as I open to the second chapter in Hemmingway’s Moveable Feast, (another all-too-curious coincidence) I re-read a bit he wrote: "…Paris follows you wherever you go … it is a moveable feast." Paris seems to have found some room in Café Felix.