Saturday, November 17, 2007
What is the difference between a café and other food establishments? When does a café stop being a café and start becoming a restaurant, bistro, bar, club or a roadside food stall?
Cafes from all over the world now sell a variety of things from coffee and light snacks to alcohol and marijuana sticks. Strictly speaking though, the word itself is French in origin and means coffee. A traditional café would therefore serve different coffee variations and food that go along with it.
I think the Philippines is yet again about to redefine this foreign term. I did mention that our city has this weekend-only event called the Night Café. By all appearances, it defies past and present concepts of cafes.
The Night Café is made up of a long stretch of stalls and mono block furniture set right on the city’s central rode. Most stalls basically sell a repeat of what all the other stalls sell-- grilled pork, refreshments and alcohol. This is one of the only few places I have ever been to where the scent of marinated grilled pork is so strong that you can almost smell cancer in the air. Customers eat ON the road while singers on a makeshift stage try desperately to call the attention of people away from binging to their atrocious diction and equally frightful costumes and dance steps.
I wonder why stall owners never go bankrupt when neighboring merchants sell the exact same edible options. I suppose the continued presence of stall owners are a testament to the success of the Night Café.
I used to ask why they called it Nigh Café when most stalls don’t serve coffee and the food is never light. Interestingly, I came across a former councilor who served the city a decade or two ago. He said the Night Café concept was born during his time.
The old city council originally imagined the Night Café as a stretch of European style cafes. I imagined they were thinking of having menus that have coffee names you can’t read and that seem to seep out of your nose when you attempt to pronounce them, pastries you can gobble up in one unsatisfying bite and waiters that ask you if you would like a spot of milk with your coffee or tea.
Okay so maybe I’m not entirely sure if they really had that in mind. Maybe they were just planning to serve instant coffee without pork and mono block chairs. In any case, my friend was surprised when he learned that their concept mutated into something wholly unfathomable and unclassifiable.
Well, I must honestly say that I loved the European concept better. Then again, I don’t think it would ever have made a decent buck. Most Filipinos in this city will never thoroughly appreciate European pastries and the English penchant for tea with milk. Those who do, either have authentic international tastes or are trying hard to seem sophisticated.
Filipinos love overflowing, artery-clogging, diabetes-inducing food and drinks and the soul-stirring boisterous company that comes with them. The Night Cafe is the epitome of what Filipinos love the most.