The little shop sits on the slope of a small hill, looking down into a long, busy street that shoots straight into the heart of downtown. At the end of the street, blocks and blocks away, the old courthouse sits, delicate and ancient, surrounded by looming black skycrapers. Out here, though, the buildings are a bit less crowded and a bit more reasonably sized. This one sits at the edge of what used to be a boutique shopping district, and formerly housed an antique store with a horribly florid name: "Exilene's Land of Lovely Long-Ago Rarities" or something like that. The new owner slapped on a coat of dark blue paint to obliterate most of the sign, but left a few of Exilene's delicate, decisively serifed letters:
Agora's storefront is entirely glass, allowing patrons inside to observe the commuters outside, and vice versa. On sunny days, someone occasionally drags a table out the front door and situates it on the sidewalk -- a little land grab into the commuters' territory -- but today it's a bit chilly, the west-facing storefront will be in shadow most of the day, and nobody seems terribly interested in rubbing elbows with pedestrians.
After passing through the front door, customers end up in the big main room, a few hundred square feet in size but partitioned into smaller spaces by roughly plastered walls. The partitions and plaster make the place feel a bit like a southwestern mission, split into cells populated by urban monks with a taste for joe and overstuffed Goodwill furniture. Parts of the bar are visible from the front door, but the path from here to there is less than direct. A heavy wooden door near the bar leads out to a patio.
The bar itself is formidable, festooned with both coffee mugs and glassware, because Agora is an unusual mix of coffee shop and bar. It sells mostly caffiene in the morning and mostly alcohol in the evening, but everything is available all the time, and given the human variety in a city this size, it's not unusual to see the barista serving shots of whiskey at 5 in the morning, or a double shot of espresso at midnight.
Of course, baristas aren't strictly necessary these days. The place has a matter feed, a sleek gray rectangle tucked away on one corner of the bar, but it's primarily there as a concession to a certain sort of customer, usually a guest of a regular who won't take his beverage any other way. But most folks come to Agora precisely because they like things done in the old, aromatic way, with shining, hissing metal cylinders, multicolored bottles half-full of multicolored liquids, jiggers and shakers and plenty of steam.
Today, the man tending bar is a moderately scruffy, sandy-haired grad student named Will. Will spends a lot of his time reading, sometimes tending bar with a glass in his left hand and a book in his right. He also makes a tasty Irish Coffee. At the moment he's wiping down the bar with a white towel and whistling what sounds like a Beatles tune.