Sunday, September 17, 2006

Illium Cafe: Where It's At

Troy is no longer lacking for coffee houses. We used to have just one-- the Daily Grind-- and now we have four and counting (Daily Grind, which moved a year or so ago to Third Street; Java ++, next to RPI; Illium Cafe; Shake Shake Mamas; and for a while the mysterious Mean Bean, whose atmosphere was just as uninspired as its coffee and food selections).

I want to get this out of the way up front: "Illium" as a word does not exist. There are two meanings for the spelling "Ilium" (*one* "L"): one of them means "Troy" (as in our intended meaning here); the other means part of the large intestine.


So "Illium" is some new kind of meaning. Oh and another thing to get out of the way: The Illium Cafe web site does not appear to be working at this moment. I'm including the link in case it decides to get its act together, though. Illium Cafe site here soon we hope.

And for me anyway, the jury is still out on exactly what this cafe will mean to Troy, as in Ilium, as in Ilium fuit, Troja est. For the past year or so, the Ilium cafe, despite its ideal location, was a fairly humdrum cafe, with just-okay coffee, some good tea choices, and dicey food. Once, I had a piece of quiche there that was the worst quiche I've ever had. And quiche should be easy to make!

Anyway, now there is a new owner and chef, Larry Shepici, whose Tosca Grill will be opening soon-- in November.

My first experience at the new and improved Illium was wonderful. I ordered a soup of the day-- there are usually two or three choices-- and it was one of the best potato soups I've ever had, potato with jalapeno. It was smooth and creamy with none of that watery taste that can sometimes bog a good potato soup down. It came with homemade croutons on top-- just the right touch. For dessert I had a slice of chocolate polenta cake, which was good and mysteriously trendy (see recent entry on Nicole's Bistro at Quackenbush). I can't say I'd order it again, but it was better than the choices used to be.

My second experience was okay, but not as blissful. I got the grilled vegetables on ciabatta, and it was just so-so. Plus, the service had started to annoy me; both times I've been there there has been some confusion as to where I place my order, when I pay, and exactly how the food is to be conveyed to my table (or not). Sometimes they bring the food over but sometimes (as when I ordered on my second visit a peanut butter cookie) they leave it sitting on the counter for you to pick up.

Plus, on my second visit I was sitting in front of two people who were apparently just released from the mental hospital. Now, I am a strong advocate of mental health. However, it is somewhat distressing to be trying to enjoy one's lunch when the conversation nearby consists of hopeless, despairing, and more depressing. ("If you want to be a shut-in, you can be a shut-in." "I'm not that kind of sick. I can't just lie down and get better.")

This is the problem Troy is up against. Troy seems to have attracted, with the power of a magnet, all the wretched, the tired, and the poor that the rest of America no longer has any time for.

However, at least for now, we're getting some decent coffee.

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