This Cafe Is So Bad It's Good
This place is built on romance and exceptionally good coffee
Bad Cafe was born out of the romance between newlyweds Brian and Diane Westphal. Its name—a bit of risky branding there—is simply their initials put together: Brian And Diane, hence Bad Cafe!
Don’t be fooled: there is nothing bad about this cafe. A restful place with clean lines and bright spaces, it has a facade so unassuming you’ll certainly miss it if you’re not looking carefully. But please make the effort; you’ll find that it’s worth it. There’s a rich, flourishing story behind every detail of the cafe that you’ll find charming. Everything, from the furniture to the menu items, have personal meaning to its owners. It’s endearing.
“Coffee has been a big part of [our] relationship since day one,” says Brian. They met in Tokyo, and ever since then have had a passionate, lively connection that expresses itself through food. You can tell the moment they start talking.
Here's the surprise. Brian is a former programmer at Apple, while Diane is a PR writer, and neither had any experience running a café. But after years of geeking out on coffee and traveling to foodie destinations where they immersed themselves in the food cultures, they had amassed quite a lot of knowledge. It helps, too, that Brian's mother was a professional baker which gave him a bit of exposure.
Bad Cafe is born of this experience. Its interiors, with almost-bare walls and bar recall the cool, understated Third Wave cafés in Japan, which is probably intentional since the couple actually met in Tokyo several years ago. Dishes are served on Ugu Bigyan stoneware bought from Quezon province, where Diane hails. A lone espresso machine is the progenitor of the cafe. They both love coffee so much that on their honeymoon, they visited the La Marzocco factory in Italy and came home with that baby. Says Brian,“It was pretty much decided on the trip home that the cafe was going to happen.”
Their espresso is made with pure arabica beans sourced from Indonesia and Benguet, chosen for its flavor notes of chocolate and orange. In spite of their obvious passion for coffee, it's nice that the beverage menu is straightforward and accessible so you don't have to be a coffee aficionado to find your way around it. And of course, Brian and Diane are almost always around and ready for a chat about coffee, geeky or otherwise. “We want to be able to talk about coffee with our customers,” says Brian says, "minus the hifalutin jargon that a lot of coffee conversations tend to have.”
The main menu was developed in collaboration with staff and a chief partner, and includes many personal favorites. For example, there's the special fried chicken that Diane loves to cook at home. Crisp and mildly spicy, these panfried boneless chicken thighs pair very well with their mind-blowing Mac n Cheese. Or try it with Waffles, crispy on the outside and fluffy within, served with a drizzle of homemade cola syrup. I’ve been hunting for years for Manila’s best fried chicken and waffles combo, and I think I’ve finally found it. If you want healthier option, get the fried chicken on top of adlai.
The Mac n Cheese is a classic recipe which they make with red cheddar, mozzarella, and bleu cheddar. It has a rich, heavenly flavor cut a little by chopped green bell pepper.
The Mushroom Tartine is a gorgeous mess. This open-faced sandwich is spread with a substantial dollop of sour cream with basil, arugula, and wild mushrooms. A poached egg perches delicately on top, with a handful of chopped walnuts to give pleasant crunch. Served on sourdough bread with homemade pesto, this will please vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
This is an enticing Homemade Tortellini stuffed with three rich cheeses: mozzarella, bleu cheese, and feta, then cooked in a classic garlic and tomato sauce. The contrasting flavors will tease your tongue.
The Slow Roasted Pork Belly Adlai Bowl is comforting and hearty. Pieces of porchetta (which you can order in bulk, in advance), crunchy veggies cooked in butter, and a serving of scrambled egg sit on a warm bed of adlai, a dish that's endlessly satisfying.
Don’t let this seemingly solid crust deceive you — this Homemade Pretzel Bun is unbelievably soft. It’s made following a pretzel recipe, then formed into a bun, serving as the base of the Breakfast Sandwich, so you might want to try that too.
Similar to a lemon meringue pie, Bad Cafe’s Calamansi Pie gives a Filipino twist to the classic American dessert. It achieves the delicate balance between sweet and tart, with a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper added, then torched, It’s no wonder that this dessert is so popular with its patrons.
Bad Cafe is great space to chill, and it's big enough to be used for private events, with a full kitchen that can churn out delicious food almost like magic. We're so glad Brian and Diane pursued their dream cafe. Come over and bask in its quiet ambience, and perhaps have a friendly chat about coffee.
Windsor Tower, 163 Legazpi Street, Makati, (02) 352-3132, or visit Bad Cafe's website.