As I sat at Table 15 about 10 feet from
singer/songwriter Freedy Johnston during his 90-plus-minute set Sunday night at
Caffe Lena, I wondered why in the world I do not take advantage of this
treasure of a place more often.
Its intimacy and simplicity create an almost magical
|Freedy Johnston at Caffe Lena in |
Saratoga Springs Feb. 23, 2014.
Caffe Lena, with two f’s, is the oldest continuously
operating coffeehouse in the country. It’s in a small upstairs
space on Phila Street that’s easy to miss from the sidewalk, especially if you’re understandably
distracted by Hattie’s restaurant, another local landmark, whose entrance is next to the door that opens onto the stairway to Lena’s.
This was Johnston's third time at Caffe Lena and the second time my husband saw him there; I was out of town. Somehow we missed the first visit of Johnston, who was Rolling Stone's songwriter of the year in 1994.
Last time I remember being at Lena’s was for a local
talent night to hear The Real Vandals, my son Joe’s high school band with Chris
Chambers, Ryan Koella and Cameron Pilkey. So it’s been a while.
Lena’s stays busy year-round with a variety of local
and national performers. Ticket prices are extremely reasonable, as are the
prices of the menu of mostly cold and hot coffee drinks, chocolate chip cookies
and a couple of sandwiches. There’s absolutely no pressure to buy a thing.
The place is clean and cozy, with local artwork on the walls, exposed brick, a worn wooden floor — it couldn't be less pretentious if it tried.
Just as I am incredulous when people fail to take
advantage of the world-class offerings at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center,
I can’t understand how people would never ever make it into Caffe Lena.