Nuts about Coco

New coffeehouse and lunch spot is a delightful makeover

COCO AND COFFEE <br>Owner Carol Love draws an espresso while barista Donna Kellogg looks on at the new European-style Coco Caffé.

Owner Carol Love draws an espresso while barista Donna Kellogg looks on at the new European-style Coco Caffé.

Photo By Tom Angel

Hot Coco: Coco Caffé, 1722 Mangrove Ave., Ste. 18, is open Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m to 2 p.m., and on Wed. nights (and, by fall, on Thurs. and Fri. nights, also). Phone: 342-2626.

As in Kafka’s novella, it is a metamorphosis—only the final outcome is the antithesis of a giant bug.

Instead, a charming coffeehouse with European finesse offers first-rate lunches where patrons can relax amid art, books and music.

Formerly a nondescript bagel and coffee shop tucked next to Kinko’s on Mangrove, the location underwent remodeling a number of months ago. As I went to and from Kinko’s, doing my “officing,” I observed the renovations with a curious eye. I had always liked that venue for its proximity to Kinko’s, but it hadn’t had much character.

But the recently opened Coco Caffà sports a classy makeover (much better than any makeover witnessed on TV these days). The walls now invite people in with warm shades of orange and gold, and two huge comfy couches grace the back corner, beckoning all to take refuge from the “madding crowd.” And, in front of the couches, bookshelves burst with a lending library full of titles tempting even the most austere literary critic.

Coco Caffà's coffee drinks shout of new coffee pots and cappuccino machines (all of the coffee drinks tasting exquisitely fresh). If you want pastries, they’ve got them: bagels, scones and muffins and (my favorite) homemade cookies.

But what you’ll really want to do at Coco Caffà is, in a word, lunch. Owner Coral Love, along with her husband Doug, offers the most tongue-pleasing, homemade luncheon salads you can find around Chico. The chicken salad particularly caught my attention, as it offers a soft spiciness most notably derived from the capers it contains.

The egg salad, too, pleases the palate—unlike some egg salads, which are notoriously bland. The fruit salad was memorably crisp (not mushy, like many we encounter), and the tortellini salad boasted a unique texture and flavor (yes, we have to admit—we did sample a little bit of everything). The potato salad was good, but not as good as my mother’s. Nobody’s potato salad is ever as good as your mother’s.

A scoop of any of these salads on a nice bed of greens is only $3, and a sandwich made with any of them is but $4.95—quite a bargain, considering you’ll find yourself esconced in one of the most charming little havens to spring up around town since Cafà Flo came on the scene. You can also get the salads in to-go cartons, which might be important if you have a romantic picnic to attend.

Also noteworthy are the one-person quiches, which Coco imports from Delightfully Delicious, a local bakery. And I was impressed by the variety of Chai drinks that are available (along with the array of sodas, flavored waters and coffee drinks).

If that isn’t enough, you’ll fall madly in love with Lulu, The Lounge Dog—the Loves’ short-legged Jack Russell terrier who, more often than not, dreamily lounges (as a dog should) on one of the couches.

Along with daughters Afton, Michelle and Tessa (who has her own girl-band), Coral and Doug named their establishment after a coffeehouse Doug’s parents had in Atlanta, Ga., many years ago—which was named after The Coco Tree, London’s first-ever coffeehouse.

A well known local acoustic bluegrass musician, Doug has organized music for Wednesday nights at The Coco Caffà (which also happens to be the all-you-can-eat night just down the way at Mountain Mike’s Pizza). Saturdays are another music night at Coco Caffà, with gigs offered by local “kid bands,"as well as other local original bands. Various local bards will provide Saturday-morning melodies.

What I really love about Coco Caffà, besides its coziness and prettiness, is that it is small and intimate—unlike some coffeehouses around town, where you can get lost if you aren’t careful.