N estled in a quiet neighborhood on the outer edge of Edgewood Park, recessed from the corner of Edgewood and West Rock Avenues, Deja Brew Cafe isn’t quite hidden, but it isn’t quite in plain sight either.
Out front, a light concrete path edged with low wrought-iron fencing cuts across a small green lawn. Straight ahead is a wooden door with a big pane of decorated glass; mounted above are garlands of roses carved from stone. To the right, a trio of umbrellas—two pale yellow, one hunter green—shade ornate metal tables and chairs, a scene which may inspire an instant detour from whatever plan you had for the day in favor of a quiet afternoon reading a book outside, sipping on a coffee, maybe enjoying a blueberry scone.
Dangling street-side, a large sign with an oval, cameo-like image of a Victorian lady enjoying a cup is just the first indication that the proprietor of this coffee shop might be a little more enamored of the Belle Époque than most. Indeed, like a Victorian locket, Deja Brew’s outside is pretty, but inside is where all the secrets are kept.
Artifacts meet the eye at every turn: a timeworn New Haven Register rack of borrowable periodicals, an aged Foxon Park soda container, a handsome coat stand with umbrella rack, a Zenith floor radio, old photographs (most black-and-white), old-fashioned dolls, antique-looking children’s furniture and vintage recipe books. A large glass case in the back filled with pastries may easily catch the other eye, moving your feet in that direction as well. Along the way you might think about whether you want to sit at one of the circular polished cafe tables, fashioned from a flecked, veined greenish rock resembling granite, or at the plush dark-brown leather couch, in front of which sits a marble-top coffee table piled high with large photography books.
At the counter, employee Amanda Lovig, a frequent customer to Deja Brew before she started working there about four years ago, recommended a generous slice of banana walnut bread and half a caprese sandwich with homemade bagel chips (shaved from actual bagels). To that I added a salad built to spec and a large cup of freshly ground iced coffee, the beans coming from a small Vermont roaster named Mocha Joe’s.
Confession: I ate the banana walnut bread first.
Sprinkled with chocolate chips, it was moist and delicious. Then the warm caprese sandwich on rosemary bread arrived, with basil, tomato and slightly melted mozzarella peeking out the side. The bread not too crispy, the tomatoes still firm, it was a darn good sandwich. Next up was that salad, a mix of fresh greens, cucumbers, black olives, chickpeas, mushrooms and ranch dressing. All tasty, all properly portioned, all well-presented on vintage-looking crockery.
Of course, the food choices, like the antiques, are numerous. Just make sure you poke around since the menus are a little bit secret here too. Look to your right while standing at the counter and you’ll find the sandwich menu; look down a little and you’ll find ice cream; the build-your-own salad slips are next to the cash register; a page detailing “veggie specials” is posted to the left; notice of a summertime fruit smoothie option is given on chalkboard encased in a large gold picture frame, set up at your 7 or 8 o’clock.
While there, a parade of families were making Saturday afternoon ice cream pilgrimages. Across the way, a little girl and her older brother ate their cones at a table sized just for them. (Norman Rockwell never found a more quintessentially American scene to paint.) It’s easy to imagine a young crowd in early fall or late spring when the Edgewood School next door gets out for the day.
Owner Carol Frawley, responsible for the decor, is elusive, perhaps off running the landscaping business that also occupies her time. Somehow that delicate/rugged duality fits; despite some fancy trappings, Deja Brew is a relaxed place.
Deja Brew Cafe
763 Edgewood Ave, New Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 7am-4:30pm, Sat 8am-4:30pm, Sun 9am-3:30pm
Written by Timothy Gray. Photos #1 and 3-5 by Dan Mims; photo #2 by Timothy Gray.