The Coffee House, Philadelphia, USA
113 W Girard Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19122
+1 (215) 426-5889
by Des Ayuno
I woke abruptly, as one sometimes does after a heavy night, the debilitating hangover to come only a tinny echo in my head. The Sunday morning skies over Philly were of the uncanny sort that follows a heavy rain. An ultra-bright sun reverberated out of the watery, steel-grey air like a camera flash against a silk sheet; nimbus clouds skittered past…
D, the equally hungover but early-rising flatmate of my sleeping host (and hence my reluctant chauffeur for the day), pulled up outside Coffee House. A was puttering behind the counter, just as he’d said he’d be when we had bid wistful farewells a few hours earlier. D gruffly ordered a breakfast bagel; I nodded a second, not really caring. We retired to a front table with one of those huge, peculiarly American plastic flasks of coffee and a “small” (actually rather large) Earl Grey. Swiftly, two sandwiches appeared. Fat seed-encrusted bagels were heaped with bright yellow scrambled eggs; also piled on the plates was a plethora of ketchup sachets, salt and pepper mini envelopes, napkins, coffee stirrers and other accessories. It was all pretty much unnecessary. A quick squeeze of Heinz rendered this confidently buttered, crispy-crusted, fluffy-centred delight the juiciest and most satisfying breakfast sandwich of my life. The generous amount of fennel seeds on the bagel gave me pause at first, but by the third bite I’d decided they were the finest spice ever to be paired with eggs. It was only when I reached the final mouthful that I discovered the cheese. An entire slice of American seemed to have leaked into a remote pocket in the egg, waiting to be consumed in a single molten bite.
I had no time to relax in this cozy haven, though, for I had a flight to catch. D lurked grumpily outside, chain-smoking and flicking butts at passing cars. I joined him ten minutes later, sent on my way with a brush to the cheek of A’s soft stubble, a mouthful of curly black hair and a murmured promise to visit, or be visited, soon. No one ever says what they’re really thinking in those moments. “Thanks for the bagel” was as good as anything.