If the name Don Francisco sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it before–every time you go to the grocery story, Target, CVS, or pretty much whenever you leave the house to buy anything. The Don Francisco coffee brand, created by the Gaviña family, is sold everywhere, making it one of the biggest bean brands in California.
So it is a big deal that it just celebrated the grand opening of its first brick and mortar café, Don Francisco’s Coffee Casa Cubana, inside the Spring Arcade Building in DTLA at 541 South Spring Street in the Historic Core. “We’ve never had a location for people to experience the brand,” says café partner Lisette Gaviña Lopez.
The Gaviña family has a long history in L.A., and an even longer history in the coffee industry. They began the venture over 140 years ago in Cuba on Ms. Gaviña Lopez’s great-grandfather’s coffee plantation. Her grandfather, Don Francisco, was born on the plantation, and in the 1930s he began roasting coffee. During the revolution, the family left Cuba, and first made its way to Spain, eventually landing in Los Angeles, where the family has now been roasting coffee for 50 years.
With four generations in the coffee biz, it should come as no surprise that Don Francisco’s Coffee Casa Cubana serves amazing coffee. “Roasting coffee is a craft. We have very strict quality standards. You can’t take bad coffee and make it good. You have to start with very high quality product,” says Gaviña Lopez. The café sources the best coffee from all over the world to create its own custom blends.
While it does serve super rare and very limited micro-lot coffee (take note, coffee snobs!), which is roasted in-house and poured at their Seraphim pour-over bar, the highlight of the coffee menu is the authentic Cuban-style coffee. The café Cubano is made with a double shot of espresso poured over two tablespoons of sugar and mixed until extra-frothy. The café con leche is a café Cubano with steamed milk, served just as you might find in a traditional Cuban kitchen. The Havana coconut latte–a creamy, dairy-free, flavor-rich latte–tastes like a freshly caffeinated coconut.
To go with your coffee, the café’s menu features traditional Cuban food. Everything is made in-house, from the bread to the pastries, and even the pickles on the Cubano sandwich. Items like the papa rellena (fried potato balls stuffed with beef picadillo), pastelito de guayaba y queso (guava and cheese pastry), and that Cubano are all classic Cuban-inspired dishes. “It’s meant to bring forward our Cuban heritage,” says Gaviña Lopez. “The Don Francisco brand is all about family, heritage, quality, and authenticity, and that’s what we want people to feel when they come in.”