Dreams, romance and philosophy are the foundations of Electric Earth Caf? & Deli at 546 W. Washington Ave. Co-owners Gary Hoffman and Treena Mikonwicz held their grand opening in January 2000, taking over the historical building storefront where Felli’s Flower Shop used to be located.
Maybe it was entrepreneurial success, or perhaps some faint remnant of wedding bouquets, but this summer Hoffman and Mikonwicz announced their engagement. Mikonwicz glowed as she shared her story of two UW graduates giving back to the community.
“Our mission statement is to create a place where people from all walks of life could feel welcome and comfortable, and leave feeling nourished,” she said. Mikonwicz continued to explain how the name encourages the techno-savvy to recognize the need for environmental awareness, and the earthy to concede that electricity is completely natural. Articulately and ebulliently, she predicted that this juxtaposition is the vision for future generations.
The establishment is open 7 a.m.-midnight Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-midnight on weekends, drawing a crowd of primarily students and business people. The atmosphere is cool blue and trendy in the daytime, and takes on other multifarious moods for Friday- and Saturday-night bands, which feature such music as punk, reggae, folk, rap, jazz and even Arabic drumming.
The blue hue was used skillfully to foster the perfect environment for both solace and mental stimulation.
Coffee shop beverages and smoothies are the main drink attractions, but Electric Earth also has a liquor license. Perhaps some of the revelry of the 19th century horse and buggy tavern that used to be in the building will be recaptured.
All of the beverage prices are reasonable. The secret-recipe espresso blend was spectacular, and a refreshing change of pace. It was dark, rich, complex and bittersweet, with hints of chocolate. This blend was inspired by a dream of Mikonwicz’s.
Whenever possible, the Caf?’s coffees are fair-trade, natural, locally roasted and organic. They regularly feature robust blends and delicious dark brews. Cappuccino, for instance, is an infamously touchy drink with lots of variance, but the Caf?’s was very good, although somewhat milky for my taste. The special beverage was “chaider,” an amazing blend of chai and apple cider. The combination was incredible — the perfect autumn potable.
Smoothies are one of my favorite drinks to make, but my favorite fruit combo (blueberries and bananas) was blown away by the “Blueberry Hill” ($4), a blend of blueberries, bananas, peaches, milk or soy and cinnamon. The cinnamon was ingenious, and a perfect compliment to the frozen fruit. The secret is out.
Mikonwicz flips through a cycle of more than 40 different soup recipes, catering to the adventurous vegetarian. All soups are vegetarian, and half are vegan. I had the West African Peanut soup, which sounded tantalizing. I greedily ate a few spoonfuls, enjoying the flavor, when suddenly I froze in shock — I had actually eaten a yam. I was deceived! Many a Thanksgiving has passed when one of my brothers or sisters tried to force or coerce me into yam-eating. I successfully avoided these evil root vegetables until my Electric Earth experience. I hate to admit that it was almost good, but connoisseurs would say it was excellent.
With my veggie puree, I feasted upon a “Tofu You” sandwich and “Philly Combo” ($5.50 each). The tofu was pre-seasoned and fried to a light, crisp brown. It was accented with tomato, black olive, artichoke, onion and lettuce — a hearty vegetarian feast.
The Philly was disappointing. The onions and green peppers were raw, not fried. The cheese was cream cheese, which, although kind of interesting, didn’t seem quite right. The meat was of the luncheon meat ilk, rather than fresh steak slices. It tasted good, but there was a noticeable lack of grilling.
Conversely, the chicken salad ($5.50) was phenomenal. This dish used to be a special, but requests forced the caf? to put it on the permanent menu. The chicken is diced and mixed with grapes, celery, scallions and walnuts. The sandwich was very sweet and mouth-watering, especially on rye bread.
Electric Earth Caf? & Deli is the home of laptops and flora, silver-grey metals and picturesque windows. The business is also the quintessential wedding package for the fianc?es/owners: old building and new d?cor, borrowed capital and electric blue tranquility.