Review No. 38: Blue Sail Coffee Downtown
1028 Front Street
21.6 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
She Said: I had some chapters to catch up on in the biography I’m reading of Benjamin Harrison, 23rd president of the United States, grandson of the ninth president. I was antsy and wanted to get out to a “third space” to sit, relax and read. I texted Ruud to meet me at Blue Sail after his French class at UCA—he’s retired, not brain-dead. I went to my closet to select my ensemble: I could hipster so hard for a downtown coffee house…but instead I went with an ensemble evocative of the original coffee-house-ster, Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. I even dug out my Delman, pointy-toe black suede flats, and debuted a top from fellow Conway downtown business, E. Leigh’s. Good sartorial times.
He Said: As for me, I go were I’m told. I’m not brain dead, but I am married. Still, as in the case of Starbuck’s, I have trouble thinking of this place as a “restaurant,” though they did have sandwiches to eat.
She Said: I like the vibe here. There are tables for working and couches for potato-ing. For the décor, the feeling is form is function in furniture and wallscapes. The elderly building is made much of with exposed brick and authentic design elements highlighted. There’s just a good feeling. I’ve had work meetings here with clients, too—people always want to meet at Blue Sail! And when we arrived, there was one going on among three dudes around a laptop in the middle of the room. Today, we were chilling, so we sat on couches and shared the New York Times Ruud brought with him from UCA.
He Said: Yes, it’s a comfortable atmosphere, more a lounge feel than a restaurant feel to it. And it was pleasant sitting and reading from one of the last bastions of actual journalism in the United States, outside of the Comedy Channel.
She Said: So, “drinks” is really their thing. Coffee mostly, but tea too. I looked over their drinks list, and many of them had names I was unfamiliar with, and I was just not in the mood to ask. I saw no “flat white” or such. I went with the latte and asked if they had any nondairy milk, either soy or almond. The friendly barista said they had both, and I chose soy (it’s cancer fighting!). Coffee is a difficult thing to review, because its creation, from bean to cuppa is quite complicated. Where and how the beans are grown influence the flavor, as does the roasting and the ratio of water to grounds, etc. But what do we amateurs know who approach the counter at Blue Sail, Starbucks or the like? We know what we like and what we don’t. I like strong, flavorful coffee with arresting but not unpleasant bitterness. I don’t drink black coffee ever, because I don’t want unflinching bitterness. What I got at Blue Sail was an expert cup of coffee, perfectly balanced with steamed soy milk. Strong. But appropriately tempered. The milk was even steamed enough that it was almost like a custard when I reached the end of the cup. I ate it with my fork.
He Said: Yeah, Jones, blah blah blah, I couldn’t care less about coffee. They have a decent selection of teas here, though. I gave the Earl Grey with lavender a shot. It was more bitter than I would have liked, but not bad when I added the sugar.
She Said: At the counter, there were signs that Blue Sail now has quiche. I had gone there thinking I would enjoy a pastry from their counter, but when I saw the quiche sign, I was intrigued. Something you may know about me is I love quiche. I’m a quiche connoisseur. So, I asked about the “Quiche of the Week.” It turns out, there was no quiche of the week. Boo! After reviewing all my choices in the display case, I went with the cinnamon coffee cake, or at least I think that’s what it was called. There were signs in the case that were obviously not referring to what they were in front of. The coffee cake was an excellent choice. It was fabulously rich and undry, sweet but not overwhelming. And, as per its name, it went perfectly with my coffee, the sweet and the bitter, the cake and the coffee.
He Said: My fat consumption issues were challenged here. Butter, cheese, eggs are all over what food they have here. I ordered a turkey croissant, which usually comes with egg and cheese. I asked for the turkey without the eggs and cheese, which seemed to be a difficult thing for them to accomplish. What I got was pretty good: The turkey was tender and tasty, and the croissant itself quite delicious, but that no doubt was largely the result of all the butter that was in it. So I’m not sure how well I did in keeping within my low-fat restrictions.
She Said: I thought our service was very friendly and helpful. One does have a feeling that the sophisticated coffee house is a bit of closed club, but not because the barista is unfriendly or unhelpful. But we did have to ask questions. One thing I didn’t love was that the coffee and the food are put on a lovely, very picturesque, but very small tray. I’m a wobbly, clumsy woman. If you hadn’t been with me, Ruud, I wouldn’t have been able to get my coffee and cake from the counter to my couch without a disaster.
He Said: Well thank goodness I was available to assist your clumsy wobbliness, and to carry the tray to the table in a manly manner. I agree, the service was friendly enough, even with my sowing great confusion with my request for a low-fat sandwich.
What We Got and What We Paid: A soy latte, tea, coffee cake and turkey croissant for $16.63.
She Said: I think Blue Sail is VERY good at what it’s good for, which is artisanal coffee for java sophisticates and those who want to be, and an atmosphere in which to enjoy it.
He Said: I’m sure that’s true. Though none of it describes yours truly, so I’m not likely to frequent the place.
He Said and She Said: A great LOCAL place to hang out, enjoy lovingly crafted coffee and read a book or a newspaper. Especially if you are an Audrey Hepburn-esque hipster. And less so if you are an old tea-totaller with dietary restrictions.
Editor's Note: Eat It, Conway is produced by local author Jay Ruud and his wife (poet and novelist Stacey Margaret Jones). The couple has begun an attempt to eat at and review, every restaurant in Conway, Arkansas. The Log Cabin Democrat and thecabin.net are publishing Eat It, Conway with permission from the authors. Visit them online at jayruud.com and on Facebook at Eat It, Conway. In addition to restaurant reviews, Ruud authors movie reviews on the site.