As we strolled around Denver’s historic Alamo Placita neighborhood this morning, we decided to hit Pablo’s for our morning fix and possibly a coffee review. Pablo’s is a Denver staple, as they have been around since 1995 when owners Craig and Kris first opened the doors. They roast their own coffee at a small facility on 7th and Lipan and sell at their flagship store on East 6th Ave. It does look like they are opening a second location in Capital Hill sometime this fall so stay informed here.
There is always a line out the door from a loyal local following they have spent years building upon. Walking in you can see why, as the place has a funky neighborhood vibe to it. Lots of tables to relax at, couches to chill on and free books to read (in house only). The outside patio area is perfect for people watching and definitely dog friendly.
The line today moves quickly. As I near the counter I notice a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine I must let serve me. I figure my best bet is to start with a shot from this beast and move on from there. Unfortunately, they only pull doubles, but I opt for one anyways. Coffee is brewed in a Fetco brewer and served fresh whether you stay or go. I don’t see any manual pour options (pour over, Chemex, Aeropress, etc) so I decide to try their Vietnamese style coffee and a latte. Tasting notes below.
My Vietnamese coffee comes up first and it’s definitely not what I thought it would be. Usually it’s served with the little press pot (called a phin) on top of the cup after the condensed sweetened milk has been added. Tradionally a chicory and coffee mix is used, but I’m cool with specialty grade coffee instead. If served in a glass with the condensed milk you can watch the coffee drip down, and then stir when finished. The condensed milk is what gives it that sweetness and viscosity and compliments the “strong” coffee being used. Maybe I’m just spoiled from all the good Vietnamese restaurants we have in town?
Although a single shot of espresso is known to be tougher to master, both single and double shots should have the same flavor profiles. A double shot may end up with more crema which can help mask any harsh or bitter flavors present. With the mack daddy of espresso machines which allows the Barista full control, I’m a bit confused. Just a thought, but with access to a roaster why is there not a blend in a separate grinder profiled for single pulls?
So I get my double shot and Latte then head for an open space on a nearby couch. Patrons already enjoying this moment greet us as we sit and immediately engage in conversation. This interaction is why I like to frequent coffee shops around town (happen to like coffee too). I sit and talk with a cat who has been coming to Pablo’s for three years now and swears its the best coffee in Denver. What a compliment to an establishment when you have loyal customers doing your advertising for you via word of mouth. Everyone is so friendly and intriguing here it makes it entirely too easy to linger around. If it wasn’t a beautiful bluebird day we may have stayed longer then the 2 hours we did.
Drinks we sampled;
Espresso: (double shot) Used Pablo’s espresso blend
Thoughts: This cup fell flat for me as the crema was weak and it just tasted like strong coffee. After one minute and one sip this is what I was left with (pic below). I know they blow through lots of shots here but I would have liked something that can stand on its own.
Latte: Used Pablo’s espresso blend
Thoughts: Enjoyed the art, well done. The milk definitely cut out any harshness usually accompanied by straight espresso. Only suggestion would be a tad less milk since the goal here is to marry the two in perfect harmony, not wash out one or the other.
Vietnamese style coffee: Used Pablo’s espresso blend
Thoughts: Again, would have liked the more traditional version of this drink instead of espresso and condensed milk mixed in a cup. With that said, it was actually really good. A perfect sweet balance accompanied this cup til the end.
Only suggestion to take this place to the next level, as far as I’m concerned, would be to offer manual brew options and single shots of espresso. I love the friendly neighborhood ambiance and I hear they have stellar food. Next time!
Good luck with the opening of your new locale in Cap Hill. We wish you much success.