Although I’ve lived in St. Louis, Missouri since 2008, I didn’t check out Mokabe’s coffeehouse until recently. Locals raved so much about the place, I wanted to find out for myself. I had some idea the Grand Jury Verdict was going to be handed down on whether to indict Michael Brown’s killer but that’s no reason to not to conduct my normal business. A girl still has to eat. Mokabe’s has a reputation as a lefty space so I wasn’t surprised loads of Ferguson Protesters frequented it. Although Mokabe’s boasts a great brunch, I went at night. A neighbor assured me Mokabe’s was designated as a “safe spot”, so I assumed the area would be friendly.
Ferguson Protests: Location. Location. Location.
Weird location was like a war zone: Despite its convenient location near Tower Grove Park in St. Louis’ artsy Tower Grove South area, parking was impossible. If I saw one National Guard Humvee, I saw fourteen. I’m not going to get decent parking spot when competing with actual tanks blocking the actual streets. Can you even eat inside a tank, or even want to? Like, go find a drive-through, tank people. Coffee shops are for pedestrians, cyclists and tree huggers with dogs. Mokabe’s would sell more espresso without hundreds of cops in full riot gear positioned at the entrance. Clearly, Mokabe’s takes their location on Arsenal Street LITERALLY. I heard some bad-ass lesbians own the joint, and maybe they are into that machismo shit. The military motif seemed excessive to me, but I’m white and heterosexual. Any-hoo.
I can excuse a lot when I’m at a crowded, hip restaurant. I understand I’m not the only customer. Also, the sight of hundreds of assault rifles doesn’t usually phase me (my family is from Oklahoma). Even so, I’d be lying if I said the scene wasn’t off putting even when the weapons weren’t trained on me specifically. Apparently my stomach is sensitive to guns pointed at people simply nearby. I need to get a handle on the IBS. I can’t be susceptible to stomach upset every time cops point loaded rifles at Ferguson Protesters at the next table. Sheesh. I’m also used to occasional chemical weapons deployment threats, but many patrons may be less tolerant.
Loud patrons & difficult to hold conversations: After making my way through a gaggle (or is it a pride? a hoard?) of Ferguson protesters chanting “Fuck the police!” on the patio. I ordered hot tea at the counter. Don’t judge me. Just because I don’t drink coffee doesn’t mean I can’t write a coffeehouse review. I have rights, people. Don’t tread on me! Everyone was really into the singing and shouting. That was fine, but I lost it when dudes in full military garb joined the chorus with bull horns. Rude. If you decide you need a caffeine infusion after confirmation the justice system isn’t just, skip the front window seats at Mokabe’s.
If it wasn’t already obvious, Mokabe’s isn’t ideal for relaxing over a cup of Joe to write your dissertation. Alternatively, if you enjoy chaos and adrenaline rushes, pull up a chair. But maybe not on the patio. Or on the inside.
Strange customers created weird vibe: Mokabe’s patrons were kinda angry and melodramatic. Like, lighten up a little, folks. You had to know a battalion of cops might disrupt enjoying your vegetarian combo meal. Many wore safety goggles and paint ventilation masks like it was a perfectly normal thing to do. Home improvement fanatics? Construction industry enthusiasts? It’s hard enough to eat sometimes without face masks, but Ferguson protesters, what are you going to do?
Several customers looked more like zombies than coffee snobs. Is rubbing Milk of Magnesia around your eyes a goth trend, or make coffee taste better? Or were they bobbing their eyes into the floating frothy bits in their coffee mugs? Are you supposed to put Milk of Magnesia IN coffee? Is that the trick to perfect mocha heart shapes?
Everyone had a corporate logo emblazoned across their chests. I wondered if Amnesty International, #BlackLivesMatter, and the ACLU blasted the crowd with a t-shirt cannon. Or maybe I accidentally crashed midnight team-building exercises. I wasn’t sure what all the justice slogans meant but I would have been embarrassed to have on the same t-shirt as everyone else. It felt like high school again.
Needs more varied menu: Finally, Mokabe’s should seriously rename some of their menu items to keep up with the times. Instead of the Who needs meat? sandwich, they should offer a Who needs tear ducts? plate. They could spice up the drink selection by adding some riot control chi latte. Add a Buffalo chicken MRAP to the line-up. Maybe some shot gun Gumbo. I think peppered cappuccino would be a real crowd pleaser. Vegan Maalox falafel, even.
Mediocre food: Mokabe’s food smelled like spent firecrackers. They could be less heavy-handed with the pepper because the restaurant reeked of it. As I contemplated ordering a panini, this weird fog poured in when a Ferguson Protester opened the front door. I heard these obnoxious popping noises like the beginning of an Aldo Nova video (Life, after all, is just a fantasy) minus the skin tight cat suit. Patrons were coughing and choking. It smelled awful. Totally unappetizing, unless you like eating burnt leaves. If Mokabe’s wanted to encourage more coffee orders, circulating toxic fumes was a weird way to do it. Pastry treats would have worked better. The whole scene made my eyes well up with tears and sent me into coughing fits.
No excuses for bad service during Ferguson Protests
Hit or miss service (mostly hit): Service was spotty at best. Staff couldn’t figure out how to serve customers who were roiling around the floor gasping for air. It took FOREVER to get my tea. Management should coordinate staffing issues better. Nearly every wait person took a serving break at the same time. I watched as they flooded into the basement after the gases made breathing labored. Like, stagger your smoke breaks, FFS. I can see you ignoring my food order! It’s not going to deliver itself to my table!
I’m sure wait staff tried their best to serve customers doubling over in physical agony, but they could do better. Training is key if you’re going to be ground zero for peaceful assembly on private property. Aggressive military disruption doesn’t give you a pass for slow service. No matter that incapacitated people are notoriously cheap tippers. Gotta be flexible, adapt to the situation.
Will I return? I gave them three bullets out of six because I do think they have an interesting menu and genuinely wanted to provide good service. Competition is fierce in the restaurant business. Excuses land flat in the service industry, even when riot cops are trying to gas you. Tank people need Frappuccino too. Next time, I’m going to hit them up at brunch.