Formerly the neighborhood greasy spoon of Miz Brown’s Restaurant, this Cuban-themed coffee shop has had a lot of great success since moving into this space a couple years ago. A bright corner café, they have a couple of outdoor tables, but otherwise a small space packed with tight tables indoors plus window counter seating along Laurel St.

Popular at all hours of the day, they sell pastries, art, cigars, their own custom Equator coffee blends, and, above all, coffee. They sell Italian-style espresso drinks in addition to their signature Cuban style coffee drinks (cafecito, cortadito, and cafe con leche). They even sell stovetop ‘espresso’ here — which is something of a first for all the cafés I’ve been to in S.F. (even if it is a bit like turning on the TV to watch people play the home version of the “$10,000 Pyramid”).

Cafe Lo Cubano's curb appeal, looking down Laurel St. Inside Cafe Lo Cubano - note the old school menu

Using a three-group La Marzocco Linea, they pull espresso shots with a full, rich aroma and a mottled, slightly thin medium-to-dark brown crema, served in a brightly-colored Waechtersbach cup. It has a smoky, tobacco flavor (cigars, perhaps?!) with some herbal notes. A good effort.

I also tried their cafecito, which is essentially an espresso pre-sweetened with sugar. IMO, it gets its rave reviews in part due to a lack of alternatives in town — as it missed something compared to the Cuban coffee I knew and loved from my former neighbors on the East Coast. While Cafe Lo Cubano’s cafecito is smooth, even delicate, it lacks that “you had better sit down for this”-punch that my neighbors delivered from their stovetop.

While Cafe Lo Cubano is not a chain yet, they have plans to open two other Bay Area locations in the near future.

Read the review of Cafe Lo Cubano.

Cafe Lo Cuban's Italian espresso Cafe Lo Cubano's cafecito

UPDATE: Oct. 13, 2008
Never mind their top ranking on CitySearch for 2007: Fidel Castro has officially outlasted Cafe Lo Cubano. Today we found its doors locked and windows papered up. They are apparently planning two new sites in the Bay Area, however. But we wouldn’t be surprised to see Fidel outlast them as well.