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File this in the "Learn something every day" category.

Up near City College yesterday. Waiting for the lights at Park and C, where the trolley slices through those two new gray high-rises (Housing Commission on one side, condos on the other).

Noticed this sign, “Smart Corner.” Then another one.


“Caffe Fika.”

And another.



“You should try the boba here,” says this gal coming out. “Ivan knows how to boba. They pop nicely.”

I see they have boba tea flavors like taro, coconut, honeydew. But then I see the coffee’s by Café Moto.

No contest right now. Need a good jolt of Joe to get me going.

I step inside to a small place (it's at 1088 Park Boulevard, 619-702-6645) that kinda jigs in and out of the corner’s steps and pillars. But there at the back by the red walls is this smiling face. Ivan.


“Actually, Ai Van,” he says. “Ai Van Quach.” He says it like “Bond. James Bond.” But a whole lot more friendly.

“Vietnamese?” I say.

“Chinese,” he says. Though I’m not sure if he means Chinese, or Chinese-Vietnamese, because he has sandwiches labeled “Bánh-Mí” on the menu for $3.75.

The grilled chicken catches my eye. Hmm. Maybe next time. I take the coffee. Pay $1.75 and set down to work ye olde laptop. Nice touch: Ivan’s over straight away to code me into the place’s wifi.

So people eating, drinking, bobaing, but the main thing going on is social. Place has lots of students in it, lots of life, lotsa laffs. You can see Aivan’s the guy who keeps it going.


Aivan, with regulars Mike, Mindy

He introduces customers to other customers. Some are playing Scrabble-type games, everybody's chatting like this was home away from home.

“That’s what ‘Fika" is all about,” he says. “It’s Swedish for, like, ‘take a coffee break with friends.’”

Huh. Swedish. Turns out this is a Big Thing in Sweden. When you "fika" you're taking a moment out. Shootin' the breeze. Anything other than work. They say the word’s “coffee” in Swedish (“kaffe, kaffi”) spelled backwards, but "Let's take a fika" has come to mean the social moment, a time out together.

“It expresses my wish,” says Aivan, “that people come here to, like, socialize, relax. I’m a people person.”

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jzwatches Nov. 12, 2012 @ 10:59 p.m.

It is a lovely neighborhood with a friendly coffee joint – Caffe Fika. I have always been intrigued by it, just like the author of this blog, of what it is all about until I met Ai Van. Indeed, he must have meant Chinese-Vietnamese as some of the items in the menu have Vietnamese words. One guy was even talking Vietnamese to him, though I did not mean to eavesdrop but I could tell (having lived in Asia for a long time, I should be able to distinguish between Mandarin and Vietnamese languages). This is one friendly joint that you should watch out if you have time to socialize and have a little laugh to end a stressful day. Also, do watch out for Ai Van. He will be very welcoming.


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