Mokabe’s coffeehouse experience disrupted by ferguson protests

Mokabe’s: more coffee. less gas!

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. Of course, I had some idea the Grand Jury Verdict was going to be handed down on whether to indict Michael Brown’s killer. Regardless, I planned to go about my normal business.  Mokabe’s has a reputation as a lefty space so I wasn’t surprised loads of Ferguson Protesters frequented it. Although the Coffeehouse 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.mokabe's coffee house patio

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. To be clear, if I saw one National Guard Humvee, I saw fourteen. Obviously, 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.IMG_2172

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. Also, I’m 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. To begin, 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.ferguson protester blasted with pepper spray at Mokabe's

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?

Why so much Corporate swag?

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.ferguson protester at mokabe's wearing gas mask

mokabe’s 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, heavy on pepper

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 excuse for bad service during Ferguson Protests

Hit or miss service (mostly hit): Service was spotty at best. For instance, 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. Likewise, 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.police lined up in front of Mokabe's

Will I return to mokabe’s?

In conclusion, 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.

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  1. J.

    This is review is bullshit and so is your ENTIRE perspective on not only the establishment but everything that is fucking going on in St. Louis right now. Mokabe’s is owned by a bad-ass lesbian, and one of the things that makes her, the patrons, and the people who work there so bad ass is the fact that they not only stand up for what they believe in but that they (in the face of all the crap that is happening not only in Ferguson but in the LGBT community) find the freedom to express themselves and their quarkiness.

    Mokabe’s is a coffee shop. Coffee shops aren’t bistros or restaurants or gourmet establishments breaking the barriers in the culture of culinary blah blah blah. If you want that you should go to Clayton or one of the new restaurants downtown. However – I will say that their lunch is awesome and I recommend it to everyone, even not living in STL anymore. I’m not saying lower your standards, but at least pay attention to where you are. I don’t go to Steak n’ Shake and get mad they don’t have filets on their menu.

    With respect to the armed guards – have you been watching the news or living under a rock for the past few weeks?

    1. The shops on Grand have been attacked by looters in the last week, making the area at risk for not only property damage but general exposure to the community’s response to recent events (good and bad).
    2. Mokabe’s as been at that location for years, so to make any judgement on its location or feel right now just continues to point to your ignorance. Maybe you should go write your dissertation on that…
    3. The establishment USUALLY is an amazing place to go and study or talk with friends or chill out. However with the Mike Brown decision, its had an impact on the community and Mokabe’s happens to profoundly care about this. Apparently you don’t.

    Before you go around writing reviews on deeply loved establishments you obviously know nothing about and are too far up your own tea-drinking ass to get your story straight…you might want to take another look at how you can better spend your time.

    1. Jennifer McCoy

      J.- You are absolutely correct. My entire review IS complete bullshit. I don’t even like Steak & Shake. I haven’t been living under a rock. I’ve been in the streets alongside protesters since August. Suggesting Mokabe’s move their location is like asking someone to change the date of their wedding because the date they chose isn’t convenient for me. That would be ridiculous! (which is why I suggested it). Mokabe’s is amazing, and so are you for defending it so fervently.


      Signed, Up my own tea-drinking ass

  2. Anonymous

    I Love Mokabe’s Coffeehouse! They have the BEST staff, service and menu going! Lot’s to choose from and an awesome place to relax and just chill. Love the atmosphere!

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