A latte, some chocolate, and thou?
  • A latte, some chocolate, and thou?
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See, this is what I really really like doing best. Late night. Sitting with a cup of luscious coffee, dipping chunks of chocolate into it, soaking in the atmosphere, watching the night world go by, thinking deep thoughts. Like, dang! This coffee/milk/chocolate combo beats just about anything I can think of. I'm naming this the best place and the best time and the best atmosphere for late-nite coffee drinking downtown.

Looking through the sidewalk window

Café Lulu

419 F Street, Downtown San Diego

Talking Cafe Lulu here, around 11 at night, with music drifting in from nearby bars and street musicians and passing pedicabs rigged with awesome lights and awesomer noise machines.

And all around me, the smell and gurgle of hookah pipes. And the mumble of conversation that goes with them.

So okay, the Russian girls who used to run this place like it was a sexy high-class brasserie are all gone. They gave it an atmosphere you could never franchise. But some of that remains.

Customers here seem like they all believe in the credo of Live Fast, Die Young and Make a Beautiful Corpse. And you want languages? Serbo-Croatian, Polish, French, Spanish, Korean, Turkish, Vietnamese, Arabic, Portuguese, even some English every now and then.

The conversation kinda tones down as this drunk guy weaves into view. He's muttering something about "Coming and taking our American women. Ain't putting up with it, hear me?"

The passing parade. Another good reason to come here for coffee, desserts, and hookahs. I don't smoke cigarettes, but there's something really social about passing the hookah around. Even if you're just watching others doing it. Good sweets, too. If I had time I'd go for that little chunk of wickedness, the chocolate marquise chocolate cake dessert ($8).

My latte

Meanwhile, on with my latte. Yes, it costs five bucks, but this time o'night, it's worth it. The kicker? You get two blocks of chocolate in the saucer. And here's the technique. You wait for the coffee to cool enough to swill around in your mouth. Then take one of the pieces of chocolate and stick it on top of your tongue.

Now, take a sip and swirl the latte around your chocolate chunk. Go ape with pleasure as the coffee melts the chocolate and makes for an über-rich swallow.

Right now, I'm doing this and watching a couple of musicians attack a song at the corner of E and Fifth. A little crowd gathers around them. This couple starts dancing as they rev up the beat. Pretty soon they're jiving wild on the corner like they should be wearing zoot suits.

Then they come to the end. And, hey, crowd drifts off, the couple hugs, then the man drops, like two dollars into their guitar case. Two bucks! Man, that sucks. Should have been $200, the performance those two musicians gave.

But it's just part of the life you catch as the hubble bubbles start gargling again and your lips pucker with the pleasure of this late latte at the legendary Café Lulu.

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