Setting the Table
In a world of corporate, homogenized coffee shops (and I do love my Starbucks) it’s nice to see an old school coffee house reminiscent of the forbearers that gave rise to our need for double-shot lattes and free Wi-Fi. Opened for six weeks, Café Diem asks us to “Seize the Bean” in its dimly lit, comfortable space formerly occupied by Lottie’s Loot and a no-name sub shop for a couple of months. The small strip mall locale at the corner of 62nd Ave. N. and U.S. 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach is none too appealing, but once through the door you’ll feel at home and be tempted to stay longer than you should.
The long, narrow café seats around 20 or so at plain wooden tables or a few spaces at the kitchen bar. A couple of cushy chairs and end tables are perfect for relaxing with a cup of Joe and catching up with friends, a good book, or anything short of an all-out nap. A lone, flat panel TV with volume muted and closed captioning on, hangs in the corner to help occupy time. A laptop computer and speaker combo plays hip instrumental music at a low volume. Not terribly unlike a library, everyone seems to speak in low tones, and staff and patrons’ conversations seem naturally softer than in most restaurants, making Café Diem relaxing, even amidst all the caffeine.
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The chalkboard wall behind the counter and register lists the menu options, with every version of coffee drink, hot or cold, you’d expect. Larry’s Fair Trade Beans, from Raleigh, N.C., provide the basis for the drinks and the staff reports everything is organic and locally sourced when possible. The sweet things - tarts, scones, brownies (gluten-free and regular), and biscotti – are the homemade in-store creation of Peter Sinish, who was also the breakfast and lunch chef on three times I visited. Guests order and pay at the counter, find a seat, and the food and/or drinks are delivered efficiently.
I ordered the Cuban Sandwich ($6.75) on one visit, and while a bit thin and not overly generous with the expensive stuff, it was delicious. Piping hot off the grill the crusty bread held equally hot ham, pork, cheese and grilled pickles with just the right amount of mustard. Fresh fruit is served on the side.
On another visit I ordered the Michigan Tart Cherry Scone ($1.25) and expected to receive it on a plate as is. I was pleasantly surprised when the barista removed the scone from the glass display, warmed it, and served it with two kinds of jelly, softened butter and a small serving of fresh fruit.
Patrons may choose from such interesting fare as Egg-stuffed Sweet Potato Biscuits, bagels, quiches, tortes, and the ABC Special ($6.50), which is shaved apples, bacon, cheddar cheese layered in French Toast drizzled with a honey-sesame dressing.
Tea, Chai and other drinks round out the beverage selection. Most drinks range from $1.65 - $4.50 for specialty coffee concoctions.
My lunch, the Cuban sandwich and black coffee, totaled $8.15 (plus tax). A refill on the coffee would have cost me a nominal fee, but I had the last half in a paper to-go cup gladly offered. With the exception of not being open when I would most likely visit: Sundays and midweek (2 p.m. – 5 p.m.) I’ve already visited three times, and will plan to go again.
Owner Kristina Renee Mammel says that the hours may be extended in the future and that additional menu items may be offered somewhere down the road.