So, Hard Times is pretty much my favorite restaurant. That said, I initially* didn't give it 5 stars because you really have to know what you're getting at Hard Times and I could totally see someone having an unpleasant experience there.
The coffee: Really really thick, kind of murky. French Pressed. I love it-- it's some of my favorite coffee in the city, but it's too much for a lot of folks.
The baked goods: The Espresso Cupcake is the best cupcake i've gotten from a cafe. Their muffins are a little dense for me. Their cookies are usually really good. I don't like the peanut butter cup. They change it up a lot, and some of the best items are random one-offs.
The soups are really good, and just about everybody loves the vegan biscuits and gravy. The quality of the food does vary pretty drastically from day-to-day/cook-to-cook. Their food can be on the greasy side sometimes, but I like that.
The service is quick, especially when it's not too busy. I've ordered soup and had it ready before I sat down. If you expect the staff to smile at you and compliment your shirt you'll be totally disappointed. On the flip side, if someone working there smiles at you or makes conversation, you'll know it's because they actually want to, rather than faking it to keep their manager happy. It's more honest that way.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you write what you want down on a slip of paper and put your name on the bottom, otherwise you'll piss off the barista. If you've got a super common name, like Matthew, make sure you put your last initial down so that you don't hear your name called, pick up someone with the same names food, and then come to blows thinking that you stole each others' food.
It's not actually dirty, just grungy. You can see the kitchen, and it's super clean and sanitary. The bathrooms are full of graffiti but people don't piss on the seat. The tables are carved up but they get wiped down as often as you'd expect from a cafe.
Hard Times is one of the few all vegetarian restaurants in the cities, and it's collectively run to boot! That alone makes me love it.
*I changed my review to a 5 because the staff seems to have gotten friendlier over the last few years.