Mars Café
23 Quinlan Road

Nestled within a dense collection of buildings along Quinlan Road, within the Heights' main shopping district, this particular establishment -- better known to the locals simply as Mars -- is a small restaurant specializing in sandwiches, salads, various sweets, organic sodas and juices, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Wherever possible, the café uses locally grown or manufactured ingredients and products originating from within Massachusetts, including such regional favorites as Toscanini's ice cream and baked goods from various bakeries within Shadowgard proper. There's no red meat on the menu, and a number of vegetarian or vegan options are available; such meats as turkey and tuna are offered, but for the most part, meat is avoided where possible.

The general ambiance of the café is best described as 'comfortable chaos'. The walls are largely gray, with slashes of bright color painted almost at random across their surface; the lighting is soft and slightly dim in some areas, produced mainly by flickering flourescent lights on the high ceilings. A wide and everchanging variety of pieces by local artists (many working with particularly abstract or bizarre styles or subjects) hang from mounts scattered across the walls of the establishment, and it seems that no particular effort has been made to ensure that these pieces are level. The comment box is never supplied with pencils; instead, a minature typewriter sits nearby, and patrons are encouraged to use it to write out their complaints or suggestions -- and are asked to excuse the fact that at any given time, half a dozen or more keys on the typewriter are in disrepair. The chairs and couches are overstuffed and quite comfortable, though torn and patched in spots, and the tables are bussed only once every few hours -- visitors are meant to take their own dishes to a bin near the counter for cleaning, and if they ignore this unspoken rule, well, the dishes can just stay where they are until some kind soul or less charitable restaurant worker decides to take pity and clear the table themselves. Any stains or wet spots on the tables are generally ignored, avoided, and accepted as part of the place's unique charm.

Mars is strictly a counter service location; the register, glassed-in counter showing various baked goods, beverage machines, preparation areas and chalkboard menus are all positioned at the front of the space, and customers ordering sandwiches and salads requiring preparation had best listen carefully over the din if they want to catch the call for them to pick up their order. Despite the lines and general chaos surrounding the counter and the sometimes surly, necessarily rushed demeanor of the staff, the service is fairly good, the menu items are pretty reasonably priced and few customers have any complaints. Given its location near various hallmarks of the New Age, neopagan, LGBT and activist communities of Shadowgard, the crowd within Mars generally leans heavily to the left, and the plethora of brightly colored fliers near the door are enough to send the average social conservative into convulsive seizures. Mars' regular clientele includes everyone from butch lesbians to earthy, 'fluffy bunny' New Age types to Internet junkies (the place is set up for wireless access) to peaceniks to drag queens to tattoo freaks to just about anyone else under the sun -- and no one who comes in regularly would have it any other way.