Previously published in Miami New Times
Inside the Avalon Hotel, the upscale restaurant A Fish Called Avalon lures diners via local seafood married with Asian and Caribbean flavors. But for nearly 30 years, the space has remained empty during the day. Craft Café, a new java joint, now gives it life. Occupying the chic art deco locale, the concept brings artisanal brews and bites with European flair to South Beach.
But what sets this shop apart from dozens of other Miami-based, international-style coffee outposts are its deconstructed coffee desserts — nicknamed “Café Extravaganza” — which transform ordinary java into decadent treats. They’re made by pouring a coffee base into an elegant glass and piling it with sweet toppings such as pillowy torched marshmallows, caramel popcorn, and chocolate-covered pretzels.
“The way I see it is a cup of coffee isn’t just a cup of coffee,” says Pascal Pinault, Craft Café’s food and beverage director. “It’s a moment. We want to give guests memorable moments with every sip they take.”
Pinault wanted to stay away from creating “another average coffee shop you can find on any corner.” So instead of “thinking out of the box,” he says, he decided to throw out the box altogether.
“Why be boring when you can be unique?” he says. “Regular coffee is common. I wanted the groundwork of our concept to be that making a latte of any kind is an art. Every step, whether it is grinding beans or steaming milk, requires special attention to detail.”
Craft Café’s specialty coffees and frappes ($4 to $12) feature base flavors such as hazelnut, white chocolate, and cinnamon. Then many of them are garnished with cookies, chocolate chips, and other sweets and sauces to create an over-the-top appearance.
The café’s “Extravaganza” coffees — which are not available to go — are named with food in mind. There’s the “Edacious” ($12) — to eat or to devour — which tops blended coffee with a chewy madeleine, a crisp Crunch bar, and a heap of toasted marshmallows; as well as the “Apolaustic” — a person devoted to enjoyment — which caps a caramel-blended coffee with whipped cream, chocolate-covered pretzels, caramel popcorn, and mini waffles.
If you prefer conventional brews, find espressos and cortaditos, as well as traditional lattes, cappuccinos, and blended coffees. There’s also a selection of exotic teas including Marrakesh mint green and organic African nectar.
Besides offering coffee, the eatery also serves an array of sweets such as macarons, croissants, and madeleines, along with savory items including quiches, panini, flatbreads, and salads. The café offers free Wi-Fi and also creates custom picnic baskets for those on the go.
“In my opinion, every customer, whether local or visiting from a different corner of the Earth, deserves creativity, quality, and fantasy,” Pinault says. “Craft Café was created to be a place where customers can receive top-dollar service and have a magical moment with coffee, all without top-dollar prices.”
Craft Café is open daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.CraftCafeSOBE.com