Mar 7, 2016

IMG_9757For months and months we looked through the storefront window and saw the renovation in progress. Then for weeks we were shut out by columns of brown paper taped to the inside. Suddenly last week, we saw tables and chairs being brought out onto the sidewalk and umbrellas being opened, and the door to Granada Coffee House in South Pasadena stood waiting for our hand to turn the knob and walk in.

Cater-corner to the still dilapidated Rialto, Granada is the brainchild of Mika Estrella—who told us that she’s always wanted to own a coffee shop. In the intervening years, Mika became a licensed aesthetician, took business and marketing classes, was/is a singer and songwriter, and earned a 2-year legal degree. In response to our wide-eyed look at all these accomplishments, she said, “If you have the spare time, why not? If you’re not learning, what’s the point?”

When Mika saw Meryl Streep in the film It’s Complicated, she fell and fell hard. Stunning Santa Barbara; a huge, beautiful bakery and cafe. Her dream was set in stone. As she worked and raised her son, Mika took empty water cooler jugs and kept filling them with loose change. After years and years, she had her seed money.

“Granada is the little engine that could,” Mika said. Especially because since day one she was always being told “you can’t.”




Mika was born in North Carolina before moving along with her young son to upstate New York at seventeen years old. In 2015, she came to settle in Southern California.

Mika knew she wanted a place with a good coffee menu and to serve simple, good food. She serves coffee and espresso drinks made with beans from Washington State roaster 9 Bar, including a white chocolate mocha and a caramel macchiato. She serves the food she likes, including some items traditional to her Puerto Rican and African American heritage. On the weekends, Mika is planning on preparing specials such as mac ‘n cheese and for the holidays corn bread dressing.




The two coffee drinks we chose were absolutely delicious; we still haven’t stop raving about them.

Firstly (above, right), a simple machiato, which is a shot of espresso and a small amount of foamed milk. Simple, thick, and rich.

(Trivia: “9 bar” is the optimal pressure used to extract espresso.)

Secondly, a Little Pucha (above, left), which is a traditional Puerto Rican drink. Condensed milk is kept refrigerated so when it’s poured into the bottom of an espresso cup, it’s as thick as honey. On top of this tablespoon or so of condensed milk goes a shot of espresso. Stir, sip, and find yourself in heaven. We are not huge fans of sugary drinks, especially sugar in coffee or espresso, but we will make a concession here. Little Pucha was the star of our late breakfast, early lunch.


Bottom of our Little Pucha - Good to the last drop

At the bottom of our Little Pucha – Good to the last drop




As we had arrived on the tail end of breakfast, we ordered a Morning Glory ($4.50) and a Freedom ($4). The Morning Glory is a breakfast sandwich with sausage, egg, and American cheese. Freedom has sautéed spinach, egg, and American cheese. Both items are solid, standard fare, but what sets them apart is the bolillo used. Mika would not share where she gets these Mexican rolls, but the ones used for our breakfast sandwiches were stunningly fresh, light, and crunchy. (And perfectly toasted.)




Other breakfast items include bacon, egg, and cheese on a croissant and The Mrs., which is a toasted bagel with cream cheese, peppered tomato, and cilantro dressing. Mika was out of bagels by the time we arrived, so that will definitely be on order when we visit next, especially as she tells us that this dressing with cilantro, onions, and garlic is something that Puerto Ricans and Dominicans put on everything.




As it was approaching lunchtime, we ordered two items: Chicken Salad ($8.75) and The Veggie Panini ($9.35). We asked for wheat versus white bread for the panini and once again, Granada’s toasting was spot on. The veggies inside were supposed to be sautéed onions, zucchini, mushrooms, and peppers with a balsamic glaze. Our sandwich had only zucchini and mushrooms, though not many, and we couldn’t taste any balsamic. Primarily, we tasted toast.




Our favorite was the chicken salad served on a French roll. The chicken salad includes chopped rotisserie chicken, celery, red onion, cranberries, sliced almonds, and mayonnaise. It was a simple sandwich: a delightfully light, fresh roll with a serious helping of chicken salad inside. It reminded us of the sandwiches we found in Venice—when we’d stop into a small cafe for a quick espresso and a panino con sopressa. No condiments like mustard or relish, no lettuce or tomato or extras piled on. No fussiness. Simplicity itself. Highly recommended.




We took home a chocolate cupcake, which our teenage consultant and her friend devoured, claiming it moist with the perfect amount of crumble and tasting less of sugar and more of pleasantly rich chocolate. Not the too-rich chocolate that stops one from finishing, but the just right-rich chocolate that allows one to continue, especially if accompanied by a glass of milk.






Overall, we were delighted with our visit to Granada and will return for a fix of Little Pucha and to sample more items, may it be breakfast, lunch, or dessert.




Granada, 1106 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena 91030. Hours: Phone: 1.616.689.5951.
Find Granada Coffee House on Facebook.

Breakfast, 7-11 a.m.: $2.85-$5.75

Lunch, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.: $7.50-$9.35
















Mika: “If you wake up without a goal, you might as well go back to sleep.”

Granada Coffee House




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