When someone says the phrase “epic fail” in real life, I roll my eyes. It’s trendy, not really that funny, and often, over-exaggerated. But as I sat in Dark Cloud: Urban Coffee Lab, located at 2122 N Halsted St. on a Friday afternoon, the phrase did come to mind. Before I bash, let’s first focus on what is positive.
Ideally, if I wanted a cup of coffee, I would want a great cup of coffee. I would also want a choice of different types of coffee beans and different preparation, as well as a caring staff that takes time to make coffee with detail to the taste in nonconventional ways. When I think about this aspect, Dark Cloud is amazing: there are three types of espresso beans and more drip coffee types, and you have a veritable potpourri of options in how the drinks are crafted. The presentation, coffee knowledge, and friendliness of the baristas are also great. With that being said, a solid foundation has been laid for this tasty establishment.
Imagine you had a prime location for a coffee place (Halsted and Armitage, in this case) and you had a double sized space. At this spot, you would want it to not only have great coffee, but also have a great atmosphere with great music and comfortable seating—which is something quite easy to have at a coffee shop. It’s literally as hard as waking up in the morning or eating a sandwich.
Despite all efforts or even a lack of efforts, Dark Cloud managed to screw this up.
The walls are painted a hue of white that suggests the paint was in individualized sterile packets beforehand. A few walls also feature some tagging that suggests the owners were paying by the hour on a limited budget. The lights are so extremely bright that every single visible flaw becomes ten times more noticeable along with the reflection of the light on the walls creating a second glow (think of light reflecting off the snow on a sunny day, destroying your retinas.)
The chairs are some sort of leather cubes with a hole cut out for the customer that is as comfortable as the Wrigley bleachers. To top it off there is no music at all. If I had to describe the setting, an empty hallway or a doctor’s office would probably be a just comparison, but even a doctor’s waiting room has some sort of flare with crayon on the wall.
Before there is a rating, an assessment of each piece is necessary. As far as the coffee goes, a solid 4 out of 5 is the rating; it’s distinctive, brewed excellent, choice beans, and something beyond cheap milk is used. I’ve had better, but it’s pretty good. If I was passing by, I would have a friend go in to get me a cup because the coffee is good, but I don’t ever want have to look into the place again as I rank the atmosphere at a negative 5. This rating is a fair rating, as my friend who joined me later at this establishment was mad that she had to sit in Dark Cloud to finish her cup within its walls. Since I am limited to a 0-5 scale for rating, Dark Cloud receives a 2 on the basis that the coffee can be taken to go.