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Michele Marchetti: Webster’s Café is Where I Hang My Mug

by on May 16, 2012 6:00 AM

As I type this, I’m drinking coffee from my recently purchased Webster’s mug. It’s my new favorite, easily holding two-plus cups of my morning, late-morning and early afternoon brew.

With deep shades of blue and purple, and a hint of moss around the rim, the one-of-a-kind ceramic mug requires a special spot in my kitchen, away from its more pedestrian, mass-produced coffee cup brethren.

The mug, the signature benefit in my $60 Webster’s Café annual membership, is a fitting metaphor for the coffee shop. Like friends or shoes, I have different coffee shops that fill different needs.

W.C. Clarke’s Coffee is for my morning commute. You can’t beat the 6 a.m. banter, or the phenomenal coffee. Irving’s or the Pump Station suit me just fine when I’m with my kids. Callao Cafe is a new addition to the list, reserved for fortification during North Atherton shopping excursions. For long leisurely cups of coffee with family or friends, I love Café Lemont.

But Webster’s Café is where I hang my mug.

Like those ceramic coffee mugs, no two trips to Webster’s (133 E. Beaver Ave.) are the same. A few Sundays ago, I unpacked my computer and entered my personalized wireless code (unlimited, free Wi-fi is another benefit of membership), then tucked into a white asparagus and avocado frittata with a side of potatoes. With my mug full of coffee, I vowed to complete three hours of work.

I’ve always managed to get a lot done while working in coffee shops, since the venue provides noise (which I prefer) without interruption (which I don’t.) Thanks to its partnership with Stax of Trax Records, you can count on great music at Webster’s. As part of its Sunday brunch line-up, Webster’s was featuring live music on the day I decided to use it as my home office. I couldn’t have asked for a better backdrop for a Sunday afternoon of work.

Ninety minutes into my session, I needed a break—and a cookie. The band was breaking down, and a woman who wrote a book about the Johnstown flood was taking the stage.

This was a surprise to me, as it was to the woman sitting next to me, who just happened to be from Johnstown. For ten minutes we looked up from our computers, books, and conversations to listen to a reading from Waterproof, a novel of the Johnstown Flood. As the author spoke about a “wall of water” that picked up everything in its path, including pieces of houses, I forgot about my own writing for a few minutes.

During that trip I noticed a sign about “MURIEL'S REPAIR,” a series of performances orchestrated by local artist Pamela Monk that feature your friends and neighbors telling the “stories of their lives.” Where else but at Webster’s could something like this thrive?

Local sustenance — whether it’s in the form of food, entertainment or literature — is the key ingredient in everything Webster’s sells. Building on its earlier presence on Allen Street, the location offers more space for community meetings, entertainment, and food.

The salads feature fresh veggies from area farms, and the Curried Sweat Pea Soup is served with Gemelli Bakers bread. Clare Traynor’s exceptional pies are a new addition to the dessert menu, and you would be completely justified eating a slice for lunch.

The blueberry streusel pairs exceptionally well with a cup of Three Eyed Buddha, and is almost as pretty as my ceramic mug.

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Michele Marchetti is a freelance writer and the former managing editor of StateCollege.com. Prior to moving to State College, she spent more than 10 years writing for national magazines. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Glamour, U.S. News & World Report, Runner's World, Good Housekeeping, Working Mother, Yoga Life and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMStateCollege or contact her at mitchmarchetti@gmail.com
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