The Total Restaurant Experience, Thanks to a Braille Menu

The weather is unseasonably warm for February as my coworker and I head to our destination; it’s a beautiful day and I’m happy for this short walk. We’re on our way to Life Alive Cafe, one of my favorite hipster restaurants. I’ve been there many times before to enjoy delicious meals and friendly service, but this time will be a little different.

As we open the door and ascend the few steps into the restaurant, we find just what I’d expected, a long line of hungry customers. You can’t call it the lunch rush; here at Life Alive, it’s the norm.

Winter reading braille menu with Life Alive employeesIf I was to describe this restaurant to you, I could tell you about the sounds (unintelligible conversations tangled up with one another over a background of music I can’t quite decipher, the whir of a smoothie machine) and the smells (delicious hints of ginger making my mouth water!). But I couldn’t tell you a thing about the look of the place. For that, I would have had to ask whoever was accompanying me.

The look of a restaurant isn’t the only thing I usually experience secondhand. The selection of food and drinks, the main reason I’m here, usually comes to me secondhand as well. Whether it’s a server standing at my table during a lull in business or a harried worker behind the counter trying to keep the line moving, I always feel pressure to hurry up and figure out what I want. I don’t usually let the menu reader get too far into it before saying, “Oh, that sounds delicious! I think I’ll have that.” There’s a desire on my part to get this over with quickly so as not to inconvenience anyone.

If I felt like having a salad for lunch, the exchange might go something like this:

Me: What sorts of salads do you have?

Server: Well, we have one called The Explorer … that has hummus, sesame

sticks, shredded beets and carrots, wasabi vinaigrette. That’s a popular

one. Let’s see … we also have …

Me: That one sounds good. I’ll have that.

Here is the description from the Life Alive menu:

The Explorer

An adventurous blend of our enticing high protein red lentil hummus with sesame stix, sun-dried tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, a sprinkling of shredded beets & carrots, sun sprouts & spring greens. Our seductive Honey Wasabi Vinaigrette guides the way!

It’s easy to see the difference. While I may get the same basic information from both descriptions, the thought and creativity the restaurant put into the menu description is part of the overall experience they want you to have and that’s what I want, too. Now that Life Alive has a braille menu, I can!


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