Eater's Digest: An early and lasting love for Brew Ha Ha!
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 23:09
I’m not a regular anywhere. I don’t have a go-to deli or pizzeria, and there aren’t any bartenders that know me by name. I have no loyalty to a particular food cart, butcher or baker. To most of the food industry, I’ll remain an anonymous consumer forever. But I’m not alone, and my life is not meaningless. Why? Because I have Brew Ha Ha!.
With nine Delaware locations, including the one on Main Street in Newark, Brew Ha Ha! a local powerhouse. They promise exceptional fresh coffee, but their expansive menu also offers lattes hot and iced, teas, smoothies, sandwiches, soup, salads and more. On the counter is a constantly changing selection of cookies, scones and pastries. As far as I’m concerned, all of this combines to form so many square feet of raw Delaware pride.
I learned to love Brew Ha Ha! like only a Delawarean could: early. The seeds were planted in elementary school, when Saturday morning errands with my dad were a precious commodity. After hours of schlepping between Home Depot, banks and grocery stores, we’d drive out to the Concord Pike Brew Ha Ha!, where he’d invariably order a black coffee for himself and a blueberry muffin for me, attaching two lessons to our trip. First, Brew Ha Ha! coffee was exceedingly superior to a Starbucks cup, and second, muffins always taste better when eaten in a car.
I absorbed his teachings, carrying them with me through middle school, ninth grade and eventually driver’s ed. I don’t know when we started to arrange our afternoons around Mango Jet Tea Smoothies and lemon crumb bars, but I can’t picture a conversation with my best friend that didn’t happen in the Brew Ha Ha! parking lot. Her Dodge Neon developed a detritus layer of plastic Brew Ha Ha! cups and accidentally stolen silverware. While kicking the trash around we taught each other pre-calc and how to be funny, biology and how to quickly scoop up whipped cream before it melted into the hot chocolate.
By senior year the Marsh Road Brew Ha Ha! felt like mine. Nobody knew my name or what I was going to order (by my design), but I was always greeted with a smile of recognition that spared me the faceless, soulless Starbucks conveyor belt.
Then, also in true First State fashion, I ended up going to college 10 minutes from my grandmother’s house. I could still go home for Sunday dinners and even better, I didn’t have to change coffee shops. The busier Newark branch did take some adjusting to, and I’ll always miss the bubbly Marsh Road barista with the brunette bob, but I’ve developed my own favorites among the staff here. With help from the back porch, they’ve made Brew Ha Ha! my favorite place to study, relax and talk and I’m pretty sure my proudest college experience is showing it off to out of state friends. Thank god they get it.
It’s easy to get the appeal of the café, but 14 years is still a long time to love something. Why do I keep coming back? What do I like so much? It would be all too easy to rattle something off about an award winning menu and an intangible rightness. Instead I’ll tell the truth: I like everything about Brew Ha Ha!. I like the logo and the brown paper to-go bags. I like the Neapolitan Iced Latte and the stacks of Spark Magazine. I like the exposed brick and brightly colored walls and menus, the staff that doesn’t seem too cool for me, the arguments about politics between older men. I like the minimal lighting, the huge windows, the couches, and the large, wooden tables that are so perfect for spreading out newspapers and multiple plates. I like the familiarity of it all, the way everyone can look and feel like they belong with their first purchase or their first study session. I like the chatter, the geographically named sandwiches and the local artwork on the walls, the sense that I am contributing to my local economy and even my local soul, a unique Delaware consciousness. I like the drinks that are never too sweet, the straws that always break, that no one cares if I dither over a choice, the smokers outside—the jazz humming above it all. I like the kindergarten teachers and college professors, the corporate big shots, stay at home moms, and Catholic schoolgirls whining into iPhones. I like the apple cider in October and the Brew Ha Ha! Latte in January. I like that no one has ever asked me to leave.