Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Top Ten Cafes to write a Novel

Posted By on Wed, Aug 12, 2009 at 10:50 AM

 

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A table for writing at Brookside's Aixois; it's not a literary Mecca like La Coupole in Paris ... yet

 

Ernest Hemingway ate here.

In Kansas City, that is. Yes, he lived here and he liked the food.
A 1923 short story by Hemingway features a description of a meal of sea slugs he polished off in a Kansas City Chinese restaurant. There may be a culinary theme: In 1937, when that other great 20th-century novelist Sinclair Lewis was traveling through the Midwest on a lecture tour, he wrote to a female friend in New York about Kansas City. This town, he wrote, "is entirely composed of chop suey joints and the $500,000 homes of ex-oil millionaires who are now washing dishes in the chop suey joints and the very handsome stone monuments of lecturers who were shot by bored audiences."

There's no record that either of these two famous novelists actually sat down and wrote in these chop suey joints. But if a modern writer is so inclined, here are Jonathan Bender and my suggestions for places to write the Great American Novel:

10) Kin Lin Chinese Restaurant, 314 E. 51st Street. It's a chop suey joint all right, but the food is cheap, so you can slowly sip on a bowl of hot-and-sour soup or nibble on plate of fried rice and begin work on an epic novel that makes War and Peace look as slight as Alligators All Around. As long as you're eating, the staff is happy and you can sit until closing time.

9) Bobby Baker's Lounge, 7418 Wornall Road. Cramped and dimly lit, this is a Waldo haunt with character. It's one of the few spots in town that attracts all ages, which means that there will definitely be some life experience to mine.

8) Latteland, 7900 Stateline Road. Two-sided cubicles with bar tables make for nice writing caves. The Prairie Village and Plaza locations offer the right mix of caffeine and quiet.

7) Nine Muses Cafe, Kansas City Public Library, 14 West 10th Street. Tucked into a corner of the ground floor of the Central Library, this little venue (with food catered by the Hereford House) is surrounded by shelf after shelf of the world's greatest literature. Inspiration is everywhere!

 

6) Mike's Tavern, 5424 Troost. There's comfortable seating between the pool tables and the bar -- a must for anybody attempting a serious writing session. Also, it never hurts if the early drafts of a novel are stained with beer glass or low-ball rings.

5) The Bloomsbury Bistro, Mission Road Antique Mall, 4101 W. 83rd Street, Prairie Village. Named for the British group of writers and intellectuals that included Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey, this is a great place for eavesdropping and jotting down snippets of conversation that absolutely demand to be immortalized in a book. Like the well-coiffed woman of a certain age who told her dining companion: "I gave that man more than enough sex for 20 years and now I'm tired. I'm tired!"

4) Mama's 39th Street Diner, 3906 Waddell. Novelists could do worse than to begin their plot in the location that's boasted a diner for the past 86 years. An open booth in the back and strong coffee is always waiting.

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The Sweet Guy
3) The Sweet Guy, 7439 Broadway. Good coffee, comfortable sofas and chairs (in case you need a break to read another author's writing for inspiration) delicious sweets and sandwiches. Trust us, Hemingway would have liked this place too.

2) Succotash, 15 E. 3rd Street. The pace of service is leisurely, meaning plenty of time to write without being distracted by the oversized flapjacks. Regular foot traffic on the weekends at City Market ensures a wide variety of personality quirks to observe for character development.

1) Aixois, 251 E. 55th Street. This restaurant's quiet hours are in the early mornings, when it serves only coffee and croissants and pastries. People do come to write, says longtime waiter Ben Johnson. They jot notes in journals, pen impassioned prose on legal pads and type on laptops. Whether sitting out on the sunny patio or in the window-filled north-facing dining room, this place can, with enough imagination, feel like Hemingway's beloved La Coupole.  

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