For a brief time, Mexico was ruled not by a president, but a noble Austrian they had proclaimed as emperor. His ruling was brief, ending in his execution, but his impact remained: influencing the culture and even food of Mexico. Lee Kafeety, owner of Cactus Flower Cafe and now Maximilian Coffee, explains to me when asked for the inspiration behind her new cafe’s name: “Everyone thinks Mexican cuisine is simply Mexican, but it’s not! It’s really this grand melange of international influences all combined.” It was this approach that launched the grand success of her Cactus Flower restaurants (there are now six) and so, naturally, she’s applying it to her other love, coffee.
Maximilian Cafe just had its soft-opening this past week; its grand opening will happen in January. Even though it has yet to “officially” open, that hasn’t stopped the eager residents of East Hill from coming in droves. It didn’t stop me either. Walking into the airy space, patrons are greeted with a stand full of locally-made goods and treated to the smell and sound of locally-roasted beans grinding away in the espresso machine.
But with all the familiarity, there’s also a twinge of sublime exoticism in the air. Coffees dusted with chipotle powder, El Diablo as they affectionately referred to mine, and true Belgian-style waffles make for a great addition to the local cafe scene. Jean-Michel Voleppe, manager/chef, brings me over a Brussels Waffle to try and then tells me all about the history of the Liege Waffle —a dough, not batter based, waffle served everywhere on the boulevards of Belgium and yet incredibly lacking here. He discussed how it was his dream when he came to America a few years ago to bring the authentic Belgian-style waffles (there’s multiple kinds) to the area. I try to be demure while scarfing down my waffle and fail. It’s just too damn good.
And even though the cafe’s menu is an eclectic mix of Mexican-style coffees and European pastry-fare, there are also everyone’s everyday favorites at extremely affordable price points. “We wanted everything exemplary, but not pretentious,” Lee explains after our 10 minute meeting had somehow turned into an hour long coffee-talk session. I imagine that happens a lot here.
People like to ridicule coffee-culture, but in its true heyday, before the days of the green siren, cafes were places where the intelligentsia flocked to share ideas and perhaps, change the world. And I have feeling that the cafe tables and booths will soon be filled here with MacBooks—the quill and notepad of our day—and perhaps a little bit of Pensacola’s history will be written within this cafe’s walls.
3419 N. 12th Ave.
Monday-Sunday, 7a.m.-8 p.m.