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Back Buzz - October 10, 1997

pumping heart Tully's Coffee, 2128 Queen Anne Avenue North, Upper Queen Anne

It was inevitable and only fair that I check out and review Tully's, the Starbucks lookalike chain. Appropriately I decided on the Queen Anne location which sits, ironically enough, directly across the street from a Starbucks, not to mention kitty-corner from Caffé Ladro, my Upper Queen Anne café of choice. As far as I know there are also two Tully's coffeeshops downtown, one in Green Lake, one in Magnolia, and one by the Space Needle. I mention this to Tully's credit, as there are approximately thirty bajillion Starbucks coffeeshops and stands in Seattle, one on every square yard of property, and close to eighty gazillion scattered throughout the rest of the world. In fact, there may even be a Starbucks in my basement by now; I haven't checked down there in the past day or two.

The Queen Anne Tully's consists of three roomy sections with a big couch, a fireplace and armchairs identical to the ones in the nearby Starbucks, and a collection of short and tall wood tables with wood chairs and stools. Basically I have nothing else to say about the decor except that it's stark and plain like Starbucks, but not quite as hurry-'em-through functional as Starbucks and SBC -- oops, sorry, I guess they now pretentiously call it Seattle's Best Coffee -- yeah, right.

On this particular Tuesday at lunchtime the music playing was Jackson Browne or some such yuppie drek, and the place was full of yuppies. So would yuppies who hang out at Tully's be called yullies or tuppies? Or perhaps yupullies or tuluppies?

My cappuccino was served in an immense industrial-strength white mug, the kind of mug I'd want to be curled around on a snowy day while waiting for my ice-encrusted socks to dry out. The coffee itself is extremely smooth and surprisingly sweet. It wasn't really robust enough to stand up to the huge mesa of foam which filled the giant mug; but surprisingly, it was enjoyable in a warm, cozy, sleep-inducing sort of way. I could see stopping into Tully's for a double short dry cappuccino late on a chilly night, the drink accompanied by a gingerbread boy or girl and, finally, off to bed in one's flannel jammies...

Hmm, but it's 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon and I'm not ready for bed yet! What am I trying to say? That Tully's is perfectly decent but a bit too boring? Is this the perfect coffee for yuppies or what? Mmm...good but boring lattes accompanied by nostalgic but boring music (with a little Sting and U2 thrown in, of course, for those uppity yuppie youngsters), and perhaps a healthy but boring salad of radicchio and wild greens and a friendly but boring subscription to the Utne Reader; and then home in the functional but boring minivan to the cute but boring house in the safe but boring burbs...

It's making me so nostalgic I feel like running home, eating some donuts, and listening to my old Germs and Suicidal Tendencies records...I wonder if they ever play any Throbbing Gristle on that oldies radio station...

Okay, enough is enough! There comes a time even in my life when I need to stop trashing yuppies and get on with more important things -- like finishing this sleepy cappuccino so I can get home and take a nap! You know, I'll bet Tully's makes a damn fine hot chocolate!

An important thing to mention about this particular Tully's is its close proximity to not one but two new Indian restaurants on Queen Anne Hill, Banjara and Raga. Perhaps such neighbors will inject a little exotic inspiration into the Tully's kitchen. Wouldn't it be great to get a samosa with one's mocha? Or how about cardamom and mango scones? I think Tully's could start a whole new trend in espresso treats if they only opened their eyes...

Speaking of Indian food (my favorite cuisine, by the way), the following e-mail between me and my Bay Area friend is from a year ago:

One night we were having dinner at Chutney's, an Indian restaurant in Lower Queen Anne. Throughout our whole meal I'll swear the people sitting at the table next to us said the word "vindaloo" about 50 or 60 times. You don't see the words "vindaloo" or "masala" much on Indian menus in the United States, although they're used as hotness classifications in England, vindaloo being the hottest. Perhaps some of the group had just returned from England. Still, that's no reason to say the word "vindaloo" 50 or 60 times in 45 minutes. I'll admit that vindaloo is a fun word to say; but I can think of a lot of other fun words to say such as "cacophony", "Wallabang", and "Alexander Wackadoodle". But I can't imagine saying any word 50 or 60 times in the course of a meal, except for perhaps "yum".

I have long wondered whatever became of vindaloo. It was on the menu at one of the first Indian restaurants I visited in the San Fernando Valley. (The restaurant reviewer said it would curl your nails, and I was not yet ready to try it.) It seems to have become just a legend, something you reminisce about at Indian meals. But not scores of times! Perhaps your neighboring diners had a rare form of Tourette's that involved involuntary utterances of spicy exotic food names.

Since coprolalia is the term for the Tourette's syndrome involving cussing, perhaps we could call the syndrome you described vindalalia. This would define people who not only shout "VINDALOO!" sporadically, but also those who shout any Indian cuisine words such as "masala", "kulfi", "gulab jamaan", "benghan bharta", "aloo gobi", "chana masala", "saag paneer", and "chicken tikka masala". Mmm, sounds like a very aromatic syndrome!