ORLANDO — It says something about the diversity of the Bible Belt that Bohemia truly does exist here, if you know where to look.
When people talk about Bohemian enclaves, you’re likely to think of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village or San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood — although it says something that if you visit Haight-Ashbury today, you’ll find psychedelic t-shirts and hippie memorabilia sold in gift shops, a weird transition where the Summer of Love meets capitalism and becomes a marketing tool. Well, even aging hippies have to make a living.
If Haight-Ashbury is much too far a trip to make, you might want to consider a closer alternative, like the corner of Amelia and Bumby in Orlando.
Take a drive over there, find a place to park, walk around, and … you’re probably going to think, Um, gee Mike, this doesn’t look all that Bohemian.
True, Bohemia isn’t likely to be found at the Goodwill Tire shop across the street, or the First Baptist Church on the other side, or even at The Plaza Live Theatre, although they may have offered some theatrical productions in the past with appeal to the Bohemian crowd.
No, you want to look right at that corner of Bumby and Amelia to find one of Orlando’s best Bohemian treasures, the Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar. You can’t miss the coffee shop’s distinctive sign with the intoxicated brown monkey swinging from a pole, and below it the advertisement for the bar’s special events, like the Science Fiction Club that meets here every Thursday from 8-10 p.m. Having them discuss the latest in sci fi intrigue seems entirely appropriate, since Drunken Monkey’s appeal truly is out of this world.
Billed on its web site as a “coffee junkie’s paradise,” that’s no exaggeration, since they do have some excellent coffee, espressos, lattes, etc. — not to mention black tea from India, smoothies, iced drinks and frozen drinks. “Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar was conceived to fill the need in Orlando for excellent coffee and food that everyone can eat … think college-town coffeehouse,” the web site notes.
And that’s one of the things I love about Drunken Monkey: cyberspace.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gone to Drunken Monkey first thing in the morning with my laptop, found a small table, and taken advantage of the free wi fi there. I’m rarely the only one doing that, and within a half hour most of the tables get taken by others, mainly students, also armed with a laptop. Drunken Monkey isn’t a particularly big coffee shop/Internet cafe (very few of them are), and it has several tables plus a couch to relax on. Let’s just say the college crowd fills the room up pretty quickly on a daily basis. And that’s one of the things I like about the bar’s atmosphere. It has the feel of someplace you’d find right on a huge college campus. It doesn’t seem like one of those high end wine bars that business executives go to so they can talk shop over martini lunches or expensive happy hours.
I can usually be found there either with a cup of espresso or a vanilla or chocolate egg cream. One of life’s great struggles, I’ve discovered, is finding places outside of New York City that sell egg creams. This specialty drink is one of my true favorites, and it speaks highly of Drunken Monkey that they make them — and make them so well.
So what else makes Drunken Monkey so appealing? It isn’t just the toy monkeys found virtually everywhere you look — although that is fun. The philosophy behind Drunken Monkey is also enticing, since in addition to rich coffee there’s the meals — which stress healthy living. Their grilled wraps, quiche and panini’s are a vegan eaters delight, but you also want to save some room for the Drunken Monkey homemade soups and their desserts and pastries.
In addition to hosting the Sci Fi Club, Tuesday Night is Comedy Improv at Drunken Monkey, and from 8-9 p.m. you can watch improvisers Dan Collins and Adam Sharf do their best to make you laugh, while Friday at 7 p.m. is Board Game Nights.
As I said, Drunken Monkey is more than just a coffee bar. It’s great location for vegetarian food, a gathering place for like-minded folks, a study hall for college students — a Bohemian enclave for artists, writers and those who think a place like this simply can’t exist in the deep South. How wrong they are.
The only real complaint I have about Drunken Monkey is that their parking lot isn’t very big, and it fills up awfully fast. Watch out around noon, when you’re going to be roaming the neighborhood in search of street parking. You’ll find a lot of other Drunken Monkey fans had the same idea and even the nearby streets have long lines of folks waiting to get their vegan fix and that so, so good coffee.
The Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar is at 444 N. Bumby Ave., and can be reached by calling 407-893-4994, emailing email@example.com or logging on to http://www.drunkenmonkeycoffee.com/. They’re open Mondays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays from 7 a.m. to midnight, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to midnight, and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.