November 12, 2021 | OPINION | By Hank Bedingfield | Photo by Claire Bogart

The Exchange, an upscale, artsy cafe on Tejon street has all the trapping of a delicious retreat. Surrounded by murals on exposed brick, the hangings of crocheted plant holders, aesthetically pleasing barn doors, and eclectic signs, the pleasant clacking of local millennials living out their remote existences lends a sense of calm tranquility. 

Two bars, one with an intimidating and almost-science fiction-like array of coffee concocting devices, and the other a somewhat standard assortment of bottles and glassware, fill the room with the typical coffee-drinkers-until-it’s-socially-acceptable-to-drink-alcohol vibe I’ve come to know in Colorado. 

The space is well cultivated, not unlike its neighboring establishments, COATI and Atomic Cowboy, which have lent the strip an invigorating shot of youthfulness. Like its neighbors, The Exchange offers a moment of luxury and escape, for a price, like a well calculated experiment on how to lure the desperate, tired, and wanderlustful to fork over half their paycheck.

The good times at The Exchange carry on, apart from the disappointing hiccup of one pastry.

The first fixing, a cinnamon roll the size of your average birthday cake, looked promising, but upon touch was straight from the fridge and still chattering from the cold. It was inedible and had to be microwaved “until it started oozing,” as our server pleasantly put it. From there it wasn’t bad, but the evolution of what should have been an inviting, sugary bit of gluttony left questions and concerns as to its freshness.

Next up were the crispy chicken wings with a hot Korean-style sauce. The wings came out quick, after ten minutes or less — in hindsight, feeding concerns around microwave usage. They were sauced beautifully and promised the kind of finger-licking showdown I love and expect from a good order of wings. The sauce itself was thick and flavorful, hitting notes of strong spice and the rich sweetness of brown sugar. While the meat itself was a bit on the small side, as most chicken wings seem to be in this unfortunate day and age, the dish was an overall success.

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps, too, make a delicious bite of well-cooked chicken, pickled veggies, and savory peanut butter sauce. Things were creeping towards the positive as the disappointments of that one dish were gradually outweighed by the successes of others. 

One moment of pause came with the B.L.T.A., a hip and popular twist on the three-ingredient staple with the addition of avocado. The sandwich was structurally sound and piled high on thick slabs of sourdough. It even came with an appealing, if not haphazard, heap of fries, which appeared to be slapped down one disgruntled fistful at a time onto the plate. All said, the bacon on the sandwich was hefty, and other ingredients — lettuce, tomato, avocado, and aioli — were sufficiently tasty.

If you need a spot to bring your laptop and carry out the grueling, sadistic demands of the block plan without feeling entirely hopeless about your existence, The Exchange can provide just that. It has an undeniably upbeat charm and eclectic menu of food and drink that will be sure to pass an afternoon or weekend morning. Take to Tejon and let the good times roll.

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