Despite its hidden location and minimal advertising, Europa Coffee House has no trouble drawing in customers. On a particularly rainy Friday, the high number of people gathered in the artsy coffee shop might have seemed surprising to those unfamiliar with Europa – but according to general manager, Zale Hassler, it was still a light crowd. Maybe it’s the all-day breakfast that draws them in or maybe it’s the delicious craft coffee, but more than likely it’s the friendly and relaxed atmosphere that keeps customers coming back — even on these not-so-sunny days.
Placed out of the way in a neighborhood corner near Wash Park, Europa Coffee House carries on in part due to its familiarity. “It’s been a variation of this over the last probably 12 to 15 years,” said Hassler. Previously named Cafe Europa, Europa Coffee House changed owners multiple times over the last decade (it is currently owned by Callie Moore) but it has maintained some rendition of the same name. It’s this general consistency that he believes keeps customers returning:
“[There’s an] importance of having a comfortable place [where] you can come in and hang out, you can get a bunch of work done, you can read a book, you can have a conversation, but you feel comfortable,” said Hassler.
The atmosphere is definitely comfortable, with groups of people hanging out and the baristas chatting with all of the customers. Along one wall are vintage leather booths with quirky rounded cushions, on the other is a couch under a variety of handmade prayer flags, and in the middle is a long community table, designed by the staff, where customers can sit and meet new people.
“It’s not a coffee shop where you necessarily come in and put the head phones in and stick your face in the laptop for hours,” said Hassler, explaining that the interaction between the customers and the staff is an area in which Europa really stands out. Hassler has seen friendships develop between many people in the coffee shop, among customers and employees alike. “And it’s not just small talk,” he said of their interactions, explaining that they actually care about how each other’s lives are going.
Simplicity is key at Europa, as it does not offer pour-overs, nor does it roast its own beans — both a trend among many new Denver coffee shops. Rather the coffee is supplied by one of the oldest craft coffee roasters in Denver, Pablo’s Coffee, and the baristas at Europa work to perfect its ability to provide solid, consistent drinks for customers to enjoy.
The coffee house has quality espresso making the mocha a fan favorite, with its delicious combination of strong dark chocolate flavor and espresso as well as the cappuccino which is the perfect ratio of espresso, milk and foam. These standards make the coffee here a solid step up from any Starbucks, but without any pretentious atmosphere or overwhelming drink options.
“Coffee is definitely a big part of what we do, but I think we’ve shifted towards food more,” explains Hassler. Chefs Adam Rossin and Dan Galansky certainly make sure that this shift was for the best, covering all of the breakfast and lunch options, while the pastries are provided by both Caffe Sanora and Spruce Confections. Europa uses a lot of local ingredients, many supplied by Brown Dog Farm in Golden, to supply its customers with good quality breakfast, made from scratch and sold for cheap.
But despite its seemingly simplistic menu made of a la carte menu items, the dishes delivered out of Europa are nothing less than delicious. From breakfast sandwiches, burritos and hashes, everything is made t0 order so customers can customize each dish to their liking. Hassler’s personal favorite is a potato hash made with massive chunks of perfectly cooked potatoes along with bell peppers, red onions, mushrooms, spinach and a hint of rosemary. This hearty and spicy concoction has the option to come with eggs and green chili on top — it’ll blow you away.
Local art fills the walls of this cafe, and on the first Thursday of each month the featured artist changes, welcomed by the community with an opening night and is catered by the coffee shop. For $5 customers can get a plate of specially made food (the offering rotates with each event) and something to drink while enjoying art from a new local artist. Currently the walls are decorated with work created by the employees in an exhibit affectionately named, “The Staff Infection.”
“Everything is to the best that we can possibly do,” says Hassler, “and we serve it as though we’re serving ourselves or a family member.” This is apparent in the care that goes into each cappuccino and every dish. Hassler, who eats breakfast at Europa daily, and says “it’s just kind of my home” explaining that Europa doesn’t take its community support for granted.
“It’s just about giving back as much as we can,” he says, “because we get so much love from the people that come in here. We have a really good group of people that support us and are here every day.”
All photography by Delmy Gooch.
Europa Cafe is located at 76 S. Pennsylvania Street, Denver it is open Monday-Sunday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.