I'm always looking for unique locally owned and unbranded establishments in the neighborhood and when we moved to Prospect Park, we were eager to check out Cupcake on University Ave. Located in an wide open warehouse-style building with big windows facing out onto University Ave., this restuarant/coffeehouse/bakery has a lot of light and charm.
As the name suggests, the speciality of this shop is bakery and more specifically Cupcakes. The shop has a whole range of crazy cupcakes from one named for Paris Hilton to another for Betty Crocker. You have to gaze over the cupckae case for the latest batches to come out of the oven. Following a fairly traditional comfort food mix, these cupcakes will make your heart skip a beat with their intense saturation of cream, sugar, butter. Served in small paper cupcake paper pinwheels, they are best eaten in small quantity -- best for your health.
Cupcake also sells healthy food: salads, soups, bread and quiche-styled dishes prepared in the kitchen while you wait for between $8 and $12 per dish. Most come with homemade breads and you can also buy an assortment of retail items spread around the coffeebar.
And then there is the coffeebar... Since we started going to Cupcake, we've never been served a decently brewed coffee drink. As much as I hate to say it, you are better off going to a coffeeshop chain like Starbucks, Dunn Bros (a few blocks down University to the East) or Caribou for coffee. I am astonished that the indie coffeeshop will get all righteous about slamming the chains and then they turn around an cannot make a decent latte, cuppuccino, or au lait if their life depended on it.
And, in every case we've been to Cupcake, the problem was with the barista not having the training, not having the concentration, not having the discipline or methodolgy, and not having the proper appreciation for serving a great brewed coffee drink.
You'd think it would be otherwise in a shop like this because the owner/proprietor would have a closer, more instructive relationship with their employees and be able to impress upon them how critical it is to running a profitable business to give the extra care and attention to the quality of the item they are preparing. But not so with Cupcake.
My partner was trained as a barista and knows how to brew a decent bar coffee drink. She enjoys a well-brewed Mexican Hot Chocolate or latte. Cupcake, although we've given different baristas a chance to redeem this shop, have failed repeatedly to make the drinks properly.
The last time we visited, I ordered a Cafe Mocha. The barista proceeded to butcher this drink, spending way too much time trying to get his whipped cream cansiter to refill as the mocha latte went flat and then, after telling me that he couldn't get the whipped cream to work, proceeded to fill the top quarter of the cup with cold milk taken directly from the refigerator, just to "top it off." The final drink was a flat as a Kemps chocolcate milk from the dairy case at Cub Foods. In other words AWFUL. The worst thing about this event is that he had NO IDEA how big a violation of the drink making process this was which only told us they have no appreciation for the art of brewing.
I will always continue to seek out interesting new indie places to eat, drink, entertain, and hang out but if they fail really badly at what they do, they don't deserve "support" from the community simply for the fact of being there.