The Spring Café serves locally roasted coffee and light fare. It’s their mission, however, that transcends the palate. The goal is to use the coffee shop as a classroom that prepares refugees for careers in the service industry.
The café’s parent organization is The Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, a nonprofit serving Denver’s immigrant and refugee community. The institute is the café’s umbrella organization helping them with funding and obtaining their 501-c3 (nonprofit registration) status. The Spring Café is nestled on the first floor of a historic building that once hosted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1962 and is across the street from the Colorado State Capitol. With arguably the most central location in the state, an adaptive menu and story laden staff — this café is essential to truly understand Denver’s melting pot.
Running a restaurant and refugee resettlement enterprise as one business isn’t easy. Denver’s restaurant scene is incredibly competitive and staying afloat takes creativity. The Spring Café’s manager, Marin Toscano is revamping the menu and expanding hours into the weekend to satisfy Denver’s obsession with brunch.
“It took these refugees so much time and effort to get here,” Toscano explained. “By the time they arrive, they’re thrilled to start a job and life here.”
Many of these refugees want to eventually open their own restaurants, food trucks and businesses. This is mutually beneficial for both parties — refugees learn about Denver and Denverites learn about other cultures. At a time when misconceptions about refugees are running rampant, there’s no better time to learn about the issues face-to-face with the people that it affects.
“We’re striving to support refugees to work beyond the café. Many of them would like to open their own food businesses and we’re here to give them the skills and support to do just that.” — Spring Café manager Marin Toscano
Boulder Organic Coffee Roasters fuel the café’s baristas with rich flavors sourced from some of the refugees’ home countries like Ethiopia. Their talented staff represents an impressive array of culinary hotspots like Myanmar, Syria and Iraq. Toscano enjoys providing driven people with an outlet. Currently, the café employs three refugees, but has and will continue to work with more. They begin by learning the register and performing barista duties. Many cultures have a starkly different approach to customer service than the U.S. and these skills will translate into other aspects of their new lives in Denver.
A colorful variety of wraps and sandwiches make this an ideal place for a quick, yet healthy bite. Their lunch special ($9) is impressively affordable, especially when you consider their location. The chicken curry salad wrap ($6.75) is a classic and the Colorado ($6.75) is a must for those wanting a go-to salad. The café caters with a cause as well. Their catering menu features menu favorites and is an easy place to order and pickup lunch for your office.
Introducing yourself to a culture through food quickly teaches you a great deal about their beliefs and values — a core principal of the café’s mission. They’re tentatively planning to offer more dishes from the employees’ respective countries of origin.
Built in 1937, the building and its interior have an elegant-yet-cozy atmosphere. This incredibly comfortable locale has become a meeting spot for the neighborhood’s professionals, some even hailing from the capitol itself. The homely feel of the place not only makes it a pleasant place to escape blustery days, but also parallels the establishment’s welcoming mission. Few businesses in central Denver can boast reliable parking, but somehow The Spring Café has its own parking, metered options, and a plethora of bike parking. Their patio offers elegant views of Grant Avenue and 14th street from a classic red brick aesthetic that compliments the artesian sensation of the entire affair. A café of confluence, this location is ideal for contemplating cuisine and, more importantly, people.
Spring Cafe is located at 1373 Grant St, Denver, Colorado. It is open Monday-Friday 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
All photography by Kyle Cooper