prado This is a review long time in coming. It was actually from a week after my first visit to Prado Cafe – the visit when I got a good cup of coffee but had a little milk overflow that kind of distorted my coffee. Anyway, second visit went well. Went in and got what is an amazingly smooth and tastefully mild Americano – so flavourfully mild that I could drink it black. Amazing for me. It is not a coffee I would drink everyday, as I do like something a bit more full-bodied, but I would put it in the top 5 coffees in Vancouver.

So, why the heck didn’t I say all this right after? Well, we actually did more than just have a cup of coffee. We interviewed one of the head baristas and took some pictures – and that’s the clincher. We were not allowed to use the photos in any way before asking permission of the owner, who was not there. After a couple of attempts to phone her, I gave up and forgot about it for a while. But today I tried again – I left a message. If, tomorrow, no response comes I am just going to post ‘em anyway. Not like CoffeeGeek hasn’t done it already. And, seriously, it’s free press!

But, yes, this has been a weird experience. Both Roland and myself had picture issues when trying to give them free press. Here is Roland’s Prado experience:

Had an *interesting* experience with the folks from Prado (northeast corner of 4th and Commercial, website forthcoming) yesterday. I took some pictures and one of the staff ran out and told me to delete them. No sweat off my back, so I deleted the photos! But isn’t all publicity, good publicity, especially VanEats 1000+ visitors per day :-) ? I can honestly say that in 4.5 years of doing VanEats, no other restaurant or cafe in the city has previously objected to me taking pictures of the outside of their establishment.

There’s also some discussion flying around about the flavour of the coffee that I noted. That it is smooth but rather unobtrusive. On e-Gullet mooshmouse went so far as to ask if we’ve been “indoctrinated” into dark roasts. That we have dark so so much that we forget how to appreciate other varieties and flavours of other coffee roasts. I think there is something to this. Like having an amazingly rich dark chocolate and never really enjoying milk chocolate in the same way again. That aside, I think I was able to appreciate it for what it was and will be visiting there when I’m on the Drive (although I will alternate with JJ – hard decision!)

CoffeeGeek tells us the story of Prado’s beginnings:

[Amy] York is the former manager of the JJ Bean on Commercial Drive and 6th Avenue in Vancouver, and was one of the main movers and shakers responsible for making that cafe a roaring success in the JJ Bean micro-chain of cafes in Vancouver. And she did this all before her 23rd birthday. She’s an ambitious person too – after working within the JJ structure, she had it in her mind to open her own cafe, and started making plans in the summer of 2004. She left her job, worked on financing and finding a location, and after many months of toil, Prado Cafe was opened in January, 2005.

From my interview I also know that all baristas have at least 2 years experience and are quite passionate about what they do.

The decor is Scandinavian minimalism. The coffee is from Intelligentsia – not the usual Black Cat you see everywhere else. They use the organic espresso blend. Hence the mildness. All 100% fair trade and/or organic. WiFi access. Yummy baked goods made on-site.

The baristas all seem very talented – some are a little bit too proud of their new jobs, but are pleasant enough. During my interview with Matt, one of the baristas, there was some evident mix of both characteristics. He was not overly willing to share information about what he thinks makes a good pull of espresso. His comments were coffee standards and proper extraction.

It’s clear that Prado has created a stir on many fronts. My personal conclusion – amazing coffee. Weird policies. Not so comfy but attractive in its design ethic.

Coffee: 95%

Service: 86%

Atmosphere: 89% (done well to its taste)

Location: 4th & Commercial