Te amo, Juan Valdez

Ah, escaping the Seventh Street horde. Two police officers, a family of tourists, two crackberry addicts, and me, relaxing in the new Juan Valdez Cafe at Seventh and E.

I’ve wanted to step in ever since I saw the signs go up, directly opposite a Starbucks. Aside from the poly-socio-economic implications of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Columbia taking on the Behemoth Seattle Mermaid, I was interested in what kind of space they would create and whether the coffee would tantalize.

The airy almost moderne space might not be the cuppa of those who prefer a cosy clubby feel to their coffeehouse, but I liked the streamlined approach. Brown leather banquettes and stools, sparse decor, wide windows that allow plenty of people watching (and a clear view of that Starbucks across the street) – there’s plenty of space to tuck in and enjoy your coffee.

But what is more likely to get my return visit is the friendly staff and the rich frothy crema on my espresso. For me, this is the real test of a good espresso – if they can’t serve you one with crema, forget it, it’s bilge. I tried the espresso cubano which has a dollop of brown sugar adding a sweet kick at the end, served complete with three tiny cookies on my saucer to cleanse the post-coffee taste – a nice touch. It was a mild medium roast, a great contrast to the cup of bitter pain that rips through me at Starbucks.

Now, I’m not actually supposed to have caffeine. So when I do indulge in a bit of the jittersmack poison, the high better be good. So I was thrilled to find myself in the midst of a mildly euphoric caffeine high after my espresso cubano. Suddenly everything was perfect. The sun came out. A little kid who yelled at me seemed an adorable cherub (and as I winked at him I was mysteriously transformed into a maternal goddess – a miracle).

All was well. Te amo, Juan Valdez.

2 Comments so far

  1. dawn (unregistered) on March 30th, 2006 @ 7:03 pm

    I was recently in the Juan Valdez cafe in Times Square. The desserts looked absolutely amazing — I am still wishing I’d braved the Oreo cupcake. I got a regular coffee with a shot of anise. Interesting, to say the least. Thanks for letting us know that we have one here!

  2. Theresa Hilsdon (unregistered) on April 3rd, 2006 @ 10:41 am

    Hi Jen, I’m a Penn Quarter resident also, and haven’t visited the Juan Valdez Cafe yet, although I have wanted to. After reading your blog, I am stopping by today! I just found your blog this morning, and would like to find out how to contribute. Thanks.

    Theresa Hilsdon
    Penn Quarter Networking events organizer

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