I’ve always regarded my neighborhood with a certain disdain. Probably the result of constantly flying through it at 50 MPH. Walking at a more sedate pace, it takes on a new look. I see things I never notice when driving. There is a certain charm, despite the outwardly run-down appearance. A plant nursery. A Montessori school in a little house with a porch. A meat and produce store. Independent hair salons. Caribbean bakery. Tile store. Masjid.
And, a little gem: Old Cuban Cafe. I was apprehensive about going in, because it wasn’t a Panera or Starbucks, and I am a franchise-monger, apparently. But the “free wi-fi” sign and the pictures of steaming cups of coffee swayed me and I pushed the door open.
The place was packed. It was hopping. A flat screen TV in the corner was broadcasting Telemundo, a waitress was taking an order, and there was lovely artwork all over the walls as well as some mock scroll that was entirely in Spanish but it looked like it said something profound.
Everyone turned to look at me, and I felt a little out of place because everyone was Cuban and there was not a word of English being exchanged. But I didn’t expect anything else, as the name of the place didn’t suggest otherwise.
The menu on the wall was in Spanish as well as English. And the prices definitely agreed with my wallet. A small cup of cafe con leche was $1.33. The small was the regular sized Styrofoam cup, which was plenty. A medium was $1.50.
The smiling girl behind the counter handed me the cup and it was piping hot. None of this lukewarm, lawsuit-averting tepid coffee that gets cold halfway through.
It was delicious.
I must have driven past this place a thousand times. The things you discover when you take the time to walk out the door…