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Escape Java Joint & Gallery

Update: Escape is closed.

In a word: Way better than the Piña Colada song.

The specs: #0158
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews of open mic, at Dane101, Yelp; moving announcement; Escape Coffee Gallery on Urbanspoon

Latest Escape Java Joint news and reviews

JM ate a bagel and a Tropicana lemonade.
Nichole ate a vegan chocolate muffin and a house coffee.
The bill was $6.50, or $3.25/person, plus tip.
JM gave Escape Java Joint a B-; Nichole gave Escape Java Joint an A- (see our grading rubric).

Isthmus is right, Escape's got a large, lovely space. Rooms lead on to rooms all painted mellow colors. Our original guess was it used to be a dentist's office, but according to the barista, before Escape was a coffee shop, it was an arcade and a thrift store in the recent past (which we vaguely remembered), and in the more distant past a machine shop and wagon maker.

Escape Java Joint interior

The game selection was on the generous side for a cafe.  JM just wishes that they wouldn't only shop at Wal-Mart.  Seriously, Madison has some of the best game stores  around and a GIPF game or even Ticket to Ride would have made it just that much homier.  JM settled for an on-line TransAmerica thanks to Escape's free wifi.

Escape Java Joint game shelf

JM also enjoyed the bagel a great deal (toasted with cream cheese), but found it no better or worse than the median of the type. The chocolate muffin was surprisingly moist and yummy for a vegan treat. The huge mugs are also a plus.

Escape Java Joint's massive mug


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I must say, to provide a rating for a "Java Joint & Art Gallery" contingent upon a Tropicana drink and bagel seems irrelative.

Try the espresso, it is to die for. They offer an incredible selection of flavors, allowing customers to create & customize an excellent variety of drinks. Not a coffee fan? A great selection of tea is available, as well as iced tea, flavored to your liking.

And the art gallery. It's a beautiful & large space, offering new artist displays every week. Guests can also view a huge variety of artwork throughout the store, as well.

Last but not least, the customer service is superb. It's not too often you find such welcoming and energetic folks, always happy to help.

Disregard the Tropicana dude's scoring. I was absolutely taken aback at this rating. Check this place out, I was pleasantly surprised & have yet to find a Madison coffee house to outshine Escape.

I guess this as good a time as any to point out something that's true of me, your intrepid reviewer JM.

I do not drink coffee or tea. They both taste terrible and even the smell of coffee frequently gives me quite a headache.

So when I rate coffee houses, I'm rating the other things that they have - if they don't have as much, then I'm going to give them a lower score. Contrast our Ancora review with Coffee Gallerie to see how a little non-coffee menu availability can change a grade.

Nichole on the other hand loves it - so if you wanna know about the coffee (and at a coffee house that seems like a reasonable request), please feel free to disregard my grade. Use my rating if your traveling in mixed coffee company, then it is useful as well.

They have meeting space, too. Call or stop by Escape for more information.

Just bought my last drink from Escape- EVER. Got a great story to go along with it too..

Unfortunately, the attitude of the barista this evening (to make it worse he was the owner- Duane) easily overshadows any positive points the joint ever had for me..

As someone who dropped about 10 dollars a week there on drinks (yeah, that's about 500 bucks a year)I was pretty surprised at the EASE in which Duane fouled my drink ON PURPOSE and my patronage in one fell swoop.

Anyway, I order 2 shots of espresso over a half cup of ice. Not the usual 4 dollar drink I'd been going for lately there. An easy one, right?

OK, so I'm watching the guy totally fill the cup with ice and I tried to politely remind him to back off on all the ice.. so he gives me this look and just keeps dumping it in. As he's doing this, I can see that what he's fixing to do is dump this thing into a martini shaker thing and shake the crap out of my espresso. I'm not quite sure if there is a 'proper' way to serve up an espresso over ice, but what I know I like is the shots gently poured over the ice (which is, incidently, the way an iced espresso is served in EVERY OTHER coffee shop I've EVER been to)- not shaken up to the point where there's 2 inches of foam. Now, I've been drinking iced espresso almost every day, sometimes twice a day (can you tell?) for like 10 years. It's my freeking RELIGION.

I've come to know that this happens to be the way Escape serves it, unless you say something.. which has usually not been a problem. From the standpoint of a barista, it's certainly an easier method than screwing around with the shaker and all the pouring and swirling and shaking and dumping.. ultimately I've also found that it profoundly changes the body of the espresso. Changes the way it tastes and I don't dig it. Kind of a deal breaker for me.

So I gently try to intervene by saying "You don't have to bother shaking it up, man"- as if to say, 'it's cool, don't bother with all the trouble.. I like it that way anyway'. Wasn't being snotty, or barking orders at him.. just want to be clear on that. In fact, I was going out of my way to gently ask him to just pour it over the ice.

Again, I get this look like 'don't tell me how to make an espresso over ice' and, rather than even explain his reasoning as to why he thinks his way was somehow better, he actually frustratingly says: "You just don't understand the way we do things around here" (Around here?! I kid you not!! It was some straight up cowboy crap- and he was TOTALLY SERIOUS!) and then he proceeds to defiantly shake the ever living CRAP out of my drink in spite of my request, as he's staring at me, and serves me this espresso in a cup brimming with ice and with a good couple inches of foam on the top.. the consistency was all watered down as I had expected, and the body of the espresso was totally disturbed from having been shaken like a red-headed step child. Might be the way HE likes it, but as far as I'm concerned the thing was ruined.

Clearly, there was something else going on with this guy other than my simple request for 2 shots simply poured over a half cup of ice, so I took my lumps, didn't give him a lick of guff, said thanks and got TFO -forever.

It may seem like small potatoes to make such a stink about, but what we're really talking about, I mean aside from the principle of the issue (ie, the customer is always WRONG), is the loss of good, dependable revenue from a pretty darn easy customer to deal with (well.. at least when I'm not getting TOLD how I should have my drink once I've paid for it). It's the annual 500 dollars a year that his weird little power trip just cost him.. not to mention the loss of at least a few other regulars I know when they, no doubt, ask me why I'd rather go down the road a few more blocks for the fix.

Yeah. Scathing review- but justly earned in my opinion. Sorry to the dedicated patrons if my rant offended. I used to be one for a good few years. There are good baristas there and I'll miss them. If this guy wasn't the owner, I'd likely had just let it roll off.

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