That Early Bird shines above any imperfections


If you deconstructed a face, you’d see that nearly everyone boils down to the same features: two eyes, one nose, one mouth. Stray hair, and a forehead that doesn’t fit quite right. It’s the price of familiarity. No facial landmark complements the other perfectly, but some come pretty darn close.

I sip my matcha tea latte while contemplating how many times one has to frequent the same place before noticing curious characteristics. I’d been to That Early Bird numerous times prior to this visit; however, this morning was different.

That Early Bird, a quaint corner cafe in Eastown, was comprised of pieces that I once thought fit together like a puzzle. I realized how wrong I was. An imperfectly repaired glass vase is not necessarily an ugly one; it can be beautiful in its own chaos. That’s the way That Early Bird functions.

I knew the place like the back of my hand. I’m a veteran at the menu, and the small bakery case is all too familiar.

From the outside, this cafe could be mistaken for a one-story motel; periwinkle roof shingles are initially intimidating. However, houseplants welcome me in, and the matte blue ceiling lining is reflected in the comfortable booths.

Some tables are made of wooden boards, while others are fit to metallic barstools. Furniture is off-white, with occasional cracks in paint.

It fits in: the quiet chaos constitutes the murmur of That Early Bird.

A young blonde woman with movie-star-styled eyeliner walks in. She’s wearing a white dress with fluffy, blue flowers, like an inverted, cloudy sky woven into fabric. She orders an Avocado Smash, and I can already imagine the dance her tastebuds will do upon the first bite.

I can picture the English muffin, freshly buttered and sliced in half. Creamy avocado mashed on with a fork, egg yolk still runny, scattered cilantro, and fragrant red cabbage. Eating such a plate creates a mess, as pickled onions easily fall over the edge of the plate. But these messes are beautiful. My mouth can’t help but water at the thought of such a wonderful breakfast.

Luckily, I have my own feast in front of me. The almost-gone matcha latte sings of a summer well spent. Sunny accents in the tea drift away and usher in autumn leaves. I question the placement of matcha- a traditionally Asian staple- in such an American cafe.

It’s these strange imperfections of That Early Bird that keep me coming back again and again; I’m always ready to be surprised by the new (and slightly out of place) trend.

On a polished, white plate rests my Baked French Toast– cherry compote an all. The meal looks like it has been glazed over, and powdered sugar is sprinkled on. Candied pecans dot the piles of lemon cream cheese.

I dig my knife into the masterpiece, and thick maple syrup oozes out. My first bite sparks a sweet fireworks show in my mouth. I would never consider this cafe perfect; my silverware is much too clanky on the dishes, and I make quite a scene enjoying my sticky French toast. But it fits in: the quiet chaos constitutes the murmur of That Early Bird.

I continue my people-watching. An employee carries a meal and newspaper out to an elderly woman sitting three tables down to my right. They exchange bright but broken smiles. She accepts the paper and slowly browses through it.

I’ve never paid a visit to That Early Bird without leaving full and content. It’s nestled cozily at the intersection of two busy streets. The sidewalk is worn, but you wouldn’t notice it upon your first trip there. The waters are calm on the surface despite the hurricane brewing underneath.

Returning to this cafe time and time again is like repeating a word over and over to myself until I don’t believe the word quite exists anymore, but I return and repeat nevertheless.