Kinks Can Be Good: Ryles Jazz Club

7 Apr

After Easter service, a group of friends and I ventured over to Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts for its ever-popular first Sunday jazz brunch.

The first floor of the restaurant/club was packed with the most interesting group of people under one roof: there were families with small children, clumps of college students, and clusters of middle-age folk all enjoying the music, food, and company, within elbow-reach of one another.

Music is the major draw. The club prides itself in being “the best in live music,” which is a fair statement: those seeking a seat for the Sunday Brunch must make reservations.

While casually surveying the menu and bopping my head to the sultry sounds, I glanced around the spot.

The walls were covered with framed posters of jazz legends. The tiny tables held artifacts—old records, show bills, etc.,–under its glass covering. The bar was haloed by a row of piano keys that spans both ends.

It was cozy and intimate–very non-corporate and “pleasantly dank.”   The atmosphere reminded me of days of old, when speakeasies and other underground joints lived and reigned as places where guests came to bask in the company of cool cats, get the goods, and not much else.

And Ryles doesn’t restrain guests to their seats. The last time I was here, I had witnessed the impromptu restructuring of  chairs and tables to make room for those itching to dance. The random placement of tables is the side effect.

Instead of being in neatly formatted rows and columns, the tables were arranged in an organized chaos, weaving here and there, leaving only the narrowest alleys for waiter and customer traffic.

I was bumped on the shoulder, at least twice, by passing guests and constantly scooted my chair forwards and sidewards to accommodate the stream of passerbys.

There are other kinks.

The dainty tables can’t  accommodate the large serving sizes of the meals. My plate literally consumed half of the table.  The tables were relics of the early days when the establishment was probably just for music and drinks.

To fix this inconvenience, the company has two choices: make the servings smaller or make the tables larger.

Of course, they are problems with both suggestions.

Making the servings smaller would peeve those accustomed to the hefty portions. Making the tables larger means less seating and space in an already cramped environment.

Perhaps something as trivial as adding the words: serving size suitable for two beneath each dish would be suffice. But then the number of meals purchased would decrease, translating into less money.

That won’t do.

Hmm. . .the minor inconvenience of not fitting my plate entirely on the table is simply a small price to pay for the quaint atmosphere.

After the meal, we requested the check.  That was when we discovered none of the twelve of us had cash.  We all were planning to pay with the plastic. Apparently, this was a problem. We were promptly told that their system would crash if all of us swiped our cards.

We were then funneled to the ATM across the street.

Wait.  Go to an ATM?  Outside of the restaurant?  Seriously?

Skipping out on a check had never been easier.

After a few minutes of plotting our escape in a get-away car, we obliged and most of the party returned with crisp cash.

I had expected the convenience of a corporate establishment in a place that was clearly not.  And while I could propose that Ryle fix these problems–with the exception of the narrow aisles which is simply a safety hazard–I think that these quirks lend the club its personality and build its brand as the metaphorically hole in the wall that has the best jazz in Boston.

If the place ran too seamlessly, it would lose its soul.


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