New café in town

I say “tar,” you say “jhay!”

Tar-jhay!

Tar-jhay!

Yes, Target is here. The oft-Frenchly-pronounced-with-irony big box sailed in last week to anchor DC USA, the first non-snooty mall in the District.

And it’s got a café.

Unlike Union Station’s or Friendship Heights’ food courts, though, it’s small. Unlike Rumberos or The Heights or Mayorga Coffee or Sticky Fingers (all within one block of the mall), it doesn’t have anything terribly interesting or classy. But it does have irony. And questions.

Most people must have been to the mall on the first day it opened on March 5, because they went in this weekend as if they’d done it every weekend of their lives. It was my first time, and I entered like a zombie. I couldn’t just waltz right into this building that towered above me full of new glass and metal and winking like a too-handsome stranger. I finally made it through one of about six doors, all or which were choked with people. Then up an escalator (escalators! I thought, One going each way, where a few minutes ago, it seems, there was a vacant lot!) And finally I plodded into the store.

The very first thing I saw was the café, to the right as I walked in. It teemed with people. Most had fast food cups with straws–soft drinks or milkshakes–at the cafeteria-style tables that sit under fluorescent lights. But it did have these cute red lamps hanging from the ceiling. it also had organic milk and organic apple juice cartons. It also had the full Starbucks coffee selection.

I didn’t take a close look at the rest of the store, but it seemed pretty similar to other Targets. In their “we’re here and we’re contributing to your community tax base and here’s a $5 coupon so please don’t be mad” mailer I got, they did mention gourmet convenience foods and feature yuppie-ish models. But in general, it’s got the ironing boards, TVs, kids’ toys, and plaid bras that one would expect.

It looks to me as if the Target Café, which could very well be an indicator for the rest of the store and the neighborhood, could go in a number of directions. It has tried for more than soft pretzels, popcorn, and soda and I’ll bet corporate headquarters is waiting to see what will fly. The future of the café–and DC USA, and D.C., U.S.A.–will be shaped by those who show up, speak up, and spend money. Those who choose to stay away will also make a statement.

So what will it be? Where will you spend, what will you buy, and how will it taste?

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