Cafe Review

Southern Delight at the North End

☕️☕️☕️☕️ out of 5

By Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith

Pilot sampling some foam

As the rain, mist, fog and damp cold dominate our winter days, I recall winters spent in sunny Yuma, Arizona. This winter we are toughing out the rainforest hiver, due to my DH’s playing hide-and-seek at night with the Sunshine Coast Search and Rescue volunteers. Amidst the chain cappuccino dispensary, we were pleased to find in the scruffy part of the old town a coffeehouse that exceeded even our high expectations.

Yuma sits on the border between Mexicali, Mexico and Winterhaven, California. It’s warmer in the winter than Palm Springs, CA, and not nearly as expensive. Our tiny winter home is tucked behind my parents’ larger abode, in an established neighbourhood in the Foothills area far from the city.

The reason the desert city of Yuma exists at all, is that it’s the lowest point of the Colorado River. This meant pioneers could cross there with their horses and wagons. As I walk along the banks of the swift waters in the winter months, it’s hard to imagine traversing lumbered with my possessions loaded in horse-drawn wagon. However, in the summer presumably the river bed must dry up enough to have permitted these epic journeys.

I walk along the pleasant shaded river bank near the railway trestle bridge, while behind me looms the infamous Yuma prison on the hill. The jail is made of stone secured by iron bars wide open to the relentless sun and wind. The construction is like a prison I once saw in the Mexican Riveria. The hands of the prisoners reached through those bars. Their view was a heap of stinking garbage littered with vultures, and a glimpse of traffic including the air conditioned buses full of tourists. Although the original Yuma prison is a museum of the macabre, incarceration remains a major employer in the area with both massive federal and state prisons on the edge of the city by the Mexican border.

When Yuma became irrigated the vast pancake of desert became an emerald sea of lettuce. Yuma is a major grower of greens imported to Canada. In the morning, the roads are jammed with white buses transporting workers, tractors, and port-a-loos on trailers. In the air, buzz crop-dusters both fixed-wing and helicopters spraying fields and orchards. The rest of the day the fields, and citrus and date groves are filled with attentive labourers.

DH and I missed the ritual of writing in a cafe such as those we had back home in Vancouver and our home base on the Sunshine Coast, so we were amazed and overjoyed to find North End Coffee House with a trendy interior complete with exposed brick walls. Their vegetarian menu is simple and wholesome, featuring in-house baked goods, like scones, seasonal muffins, bagels, and cookies.

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

—Ernest Hemingway

They roast their own coffee beans in small batches. The coffee is rich and without bitterness. My favourite is the iced Americano to beat the heat, that I doctor up with cream. DH enjoys a flat white. They also offer tea, although I’m reluctant to order tea in the US having been disappointed about 99% of the time. I just don’t think Americans understand Canadian tea drinkers expectations, especially iced tea.

This place is so friendly, it’s dog friendly. We can bring our two marginally behaved chihuahuas. They have live guitar music on Saturday mornings, that you can write through if you wish, but it’s nice to take a break and appreciate it. They encourage their frequenters to sit back and relax, as the stack of games in the corner hints at.

Board game, anyone?

The front door was in need of repair for some time, and wont to fly open at the slightest breeze. The continual slam and smack, and gentle verbal instructions on how to keep it closed was definitely a distraction until they got it repaired. The wifi didn’t let us down.

Here’s a timed writing exercise to overcome writer’s block. If you have a tendency to engage your inner editor when you’re drafting, you can end up blocked. Writing and editing are two different brain activities. Set an alarm for 10 minutes and then write continuously until the alarm goes off. No stopping! At the end of the 10 minutes you can then go back and edit.

Need a prompt for your timed writing?

Touch is the most intense of all senses, therefore, to engage readers don’t forget to appeal to their memory of touch. For 10 minutes write about all the sensations of touch you’ve felt since you woke up this morning.

We were lucky to get the ample couch at the back, when we brought the chis with us. We had to use our laps to type versus the low coffee table, but that’s what laptops are made for. When we came without the dogs, the tables were just the right size. If you’re ever as south as Yuma, don’t pass up this singular cafe writing experience.

Stephen Smith & his editor, Patches.

202 S 1st Avenue, Ste. 203, Yuma, AZ, US

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