Don Francisco's Coffee Casa Cubana
MI CASA ES SU CASA CUB ANA
If you’ve ever wondered what 140 years of experience and history tastes like or ever wanted to feel the warmth of Cuban culture then we suggest you take a trip to Don Francisco’s Coffee Casa Cubana inside the Spring Arcade building.
The sounds of the Buena Vista Social Club will immediately draw you in as you order a nostalgically tasty café con leche. Take a sip and know you’ve just taken a sip of a story, a struggle and the ultimate success of a family you’re about to meet – The Gaviñas. This family has relentlessly poured its heart and hard work into the coffee business, traveling from Cuba to LA, long before the doors of Casa Cubana opened this past August.
“We were coffee farmers with my great-grandfather and then my grandfather grew up on a plantation. That’s where he learned about growing coffee, processing coffee and then he was the one that started roasting coffee in the 1930s in Cuba,” says Lisette Gaviña Lopez, a proud fourth generation Gaviña. She’s quick to warmly invite anyone into Casa Cubana as she would a family member because that’s how this family-run, family-operated LA company sees its customers — they are part of the Gaviña family. And how this family landed in Los Angeles is nothing short of a miracle.
The Gaviña family was forced to flee their beloved Cuba in the 60s after the Cuban government seized their land along with everything else they owned. They had nothing. Once they finally arrived in LA, her grandfather, in his 60s mind you, longed to get back into the coffee biz so he started all over from scratch. “My grandfather did a lot of research and reached out to a lot of people.
Meanwhile, he’s working at a restaurant as a dishwasher,” says Lisette.
Eventually, he scraped up enough cash to buy a roaster and in 1967 he was back in business. This year marks 50 years of roasting in Los Angeles. And if you’re from LA you might already be familiar with Don Francisco’s coffee brand as you flashback to your abuela’s kitchen table.
Today, the new Casa Cubana is reintroducing itself in a fresh, daycation-worthy storefront with a lush plantscape, impeccable tile work and little pieces of the Gaviña story scattered in the details from the vintage coffee roaster upfront to the neon sign of the family crest in the back wall dedicated to old family photos. And it all came together thanks to the architecture and interior design dream team over at Omgivning. “Their strong ties to their family to quality to coffee to LA to Cuba. There’s already so much there that we can work with … for the textures, for the feel, for the ambiance,” says designer Nicole Stubblefield. “We really wanted this place to have all of these pockets … and different environments within one place but still make it feel light and airy,” points out designer Norella Carboni. That’s why you’ll find various sections to hang out in — from a living room to a bar counter to an outside patio.
Plus your coffee will never get lonely. The food here is absolutely drool-inducing and affordable. Two people can eat here for about 20 bucks. Lisette suggests ordering two of their savory sandwiches and splitting them with a friend for the best of both worlds. Get the pork and plantain hash – slow-roasted in house for 24 hours with a sunny-side up egg on fluffy brioche bread. Get ready to crave this once you leave. Also get the classic Cubano sandwich where every inch is stuffed to the brim with homemade goodies. Go find out firsthand what’s inside. Trust us. Then wash it all down with a cortadito or get the Iced Havana Coconut Latte. Oh and don’t forget to throw in a papa rellena because potato balls stuffed with salty meats should never be passed up!
With LA changing at a pace that’s hard to keep up with these days, come in to Don Francisco’s Coffee Casa Cubana, escape and sip LA at its best.
Written By Linda Hosmer
Photographed By Robiee Ziegler