There is not an hour in the day when a tired, hungover, deadline-pegged McGill student cannot seek refuge in the Milton B cafeteria.
Tucked in on the corner of Avenue Parc and Rue Milton, Milton B was originally a 24-hour Second Cup and five years ago, it rebranded and reopened. But one thing remained: The shop’s hours. It’s still open 24/7.
With exams looming, we need to stay ready for anything, and I want to play my part. So, I have placed three deliberate grammar mistakes in this piece. Grab a pen and circle the ones you can find. There are only three, so keep your eyes peeled. If you see four, I’ll buy you a Kit Kat.
I walk past Milton B every day I come to campus—and because I’m a nerd, this is most days. The building is a wooden structure with a steep gabled roof and a dash of vibrant green on the wall overlooking the sidewalk. Its straight out of Club Penguin. And despite coming close with it nearly every day, I still can’t put my finger on what exactly Milton B is trying to be.
The interior is chaotic and incongruous. Thick, tan beams contrast razor-light green curtains by the front windows. A row of metal stools stalk the Rue Milton sidewalk and an assorted mix of yellow, green, black, and metal-rimmed chairs accompany a mismatch of different tables, with some varnished and some not quite as lucky.
My biggest issue is with the lifeless, white-grey wall on the far left of the entrance. It offers nothing but a reflection of your tired, depressed soul as you wish you were on a different plane of existence.
The menu offers the usual café fare, like espresso-based beverages, cakes, and pastries. But it also provides milkshakes and an extensive range of hot food, from calzones to poutine. Prices are reasonable, and some of the cakes were in clingfilm, which doesn’t scream ‘freshly baked.’
I order a black Americano ($3.55) and I’m quite peckish, so I also grab a cookie with a heart-shaped centre ($2.70), a chocolate torsade ($2.70), and a mozzarella chicken calzone ($7.95). I take a seat by the window.
The mood is sullen, like a late night in an airport. Piano jazz plays monotonously in the background and the light is desolate and unnatural, like in a casino.
The room is scattered with MacBook warriors toiling over deadlines. And they’re not just working—they’re waiting. Waiting to find love, to find an internship, to find a decent show on Netflix. But above all, they’re waiting to finish their work and go home.
And then it hit me: Milton B is not trying to be a café you want to visit. It’s trying to be a café you visit out of necessity.
A big tell of a shabby coffee shop is whether they use stale coffee. If there’s a harsh acid after-taste, the beans are probably stale. And, thankfully, Milton B’s coffee did not smear my taste buds. There isn’t the richness that more specialized coffee shops offer, but this Americano is balanced, pleasant, and easy to drink—once it cools down.
The cookie looked more appealing behind the glass. It’s, underbaked and its glaze is bleakly pale. It’s in desperate need of a tan. I’m not sure if the red sugary layer in the heart-shaped centre was initially a spread of jam that’s since been desiccated from the artificial light. But whatever it is, it tastes like a melted edible sticker.
The chocolate torsade is nothing special. If anything, it’s a little dry. The mozzarella chicken calzone has the texture of a fossil. It could also be politely used as an object for a game of catch. The chicken is well-seasoned and fills you up. Would it survive the high streets of Naples? Don’t be silly. Does it suffice as a midnight snack? Hell yes!