Aidan 'Taco' Jones is a comedian and writer based in Melbourne Australia, he likes most types of cheese and often throws tantrums. To read his blog and find him doing comedy hit up ajtaco.blogspot.com
I was excited about going to Stagger Lee's long before I got off the 112 tram on the corner of Johnston and Brunswick Streets in Fitzroy, and walked back through the midday sun to the shady lane this new cafe opens up onto. A friend, who happens to be a well-respected Melbourne barista (a title some would deem worthy of open mockery – I'm not sure whether I would fully discount myself from their number just yet) recommended this new cafe to me. I decided to go, and regardless of my ingrained preconceptions about hipster/coffee culture in Australia's centre of pretension, based on my bearded friend's recommendation my expectations were high.
The plan was to meet a friend by the name of Isabella – not the same one who had recommended the place, although I'm sure she could grow a beard if she set her mind to it she is a very self-determined and intuitive woman. As well as those things though, she is a terminally tardy woman, and had given me leave to order without her. ("given me leave"? Why am I talking like that? Idiot.)
I waited around for THIS? Nah just jokes Bella, you're all right.
The menu was small, but just big enough to offer enough choice – who needs more than three or four decent options for each meal anyway? Everything looked a little different though, there was no standard English Breakfast or Lazy Man's Cop-Out, and I appreciated the challenge posed by the menu's dark figure – presumably the famous pimp the cafe takes its name from – as he stared back at me. I ordered the Big Boi's Breakie, and set to wondering while I sipped my chai latte, what 'Smoked Ham Hock' actually was. And around around me everything was still quiet – still no Isabella.
While waiting flashed back to the previous week when when I had stood on this very corner handing out flyers for my Comedy Festival show as the staff packed up for the day. I remembered seeing a tour poster for Huxley (fantastic UK garage DJ) on the "What's On Wall" and losing my mind, quite literally exclaiming, "are you KIDDING me!" and running over to the poster. One of the baristas (also bearded... sigh) came out to see what the commotion was about and we had a short chat about Huxley and then my comedy as I handed him a flyer (also sigh, is nothing sacred?).
The food came and from the first bite – honestly, I really remember this – I was hooked. Bread is my favourite part of any meal. I absolutely love bread... but breaking all of my regular conventions, I saved the bread to last. This alone is a testament to how delicious the food was, I hardly had time to breathe as I struggled to remember to savour the breakfast I was eating at 12:30pm, and when I got to the bread I was just full enough to enjoy the last drops of sauce that waited at the bottom of my shallow bowl.
This was taken after my first bite, I could NOT wait.
Isabella rocked up just as I had finished and looked over at my empty dishes, I half expected her to say something along the lines of "oh my GOD you pig, did you lick your plate clean?!" and was ready to go off on her about how great the meal was and that no, actually, I finished it with my bread what do I look like a god damn ANIMAL? But she didn't. She ordered a coffee and a sandwich from the deli section, and I decided to lash out and grab one of the cold drip coffees on offer on the specials board – the Alejandra Ramos from Bolivia.
I don't know what I expected from this little guy, but it was great. Viva mi patria Bolivia!
I'd seen one of these slow drip contraptions in another cafe before but never had the chance to give it a try, also I'm not a huge coffee drinker and have always gone for the milky option for a bit of sweetness to mask the brutality of espresso. The cold drip came in a small glass with a single ice cube and far from being the strong hit of coffee I had been scared it might be, was actually a little sweet, and definitely the cap on what had been an outstanding meal. Expectations fulfilled.
The whole time I was at Stagger Lee, I didn't think once about he shameless, gnawing hipster-cool that seemed to ooze from the very idea of 'coffee-brunch culture'. From afar, before you actually see it, the whole thing seems so contrived and coated in repulsive irony. "Do you GET IT? I've got a beard... and a MacBook!" – preconceptions whizzed around in my head.
'Contraption' is definitely the best word to describe this thing, where the cold drip coffee comes from.
When you get there though, and actually sit down and experience a place put together by people solely concerned with providing a fantastic cafe experience, all of those preconceptions fade away. All that is left is all that I think anyone wants to begin with – a place that is, at it's core, pretty damn cool. That's what I thought anyway, but then again I don't even have a beard.