“Fine dining restaurants are fine dining restaurants and fast food is fast food, but some experiences only happen in a coffee shop,” Caravan Black co-founder Miguel Rodriguez says.
Caravan Black has been around since 2016 with the aim to bring a richer coffee culture here in the Philippines. Situated in the western part of Bonifacio Global City amid corporate buildings, the cafe has become a favorite neighborhood spot for workers and nearby residents to get coffee (they offer Yardstick Coffee) and food (their choriburger is a nostalgic throwback to Bun on the Run’s).
But more than the coffee and food, Miguel believes in something more meaningful. “In our third year we realized that coffee is coffee and food is food. It should be deeper than that. We wanted to create connections.”
“In our third year we realized that coffee is coffee and food is food. It should be deeper than that. We wanted to create connections,” says co-founder Miguel Rodriguez.
Regulars at Caravan Black know that every year on May 4, the coffee shop holds trivia nights dedicated to Star Wars. Pre-pandemic they held many other activities to foster a sense of community with their patrons. “It came to the point where I got to know the customers. I knew their coffee, I knew where they wanted to sit down. I knew how many sugars they wanted in their coffee. Many of our customers have become friends.”
Miguel’s wife and Caravan Black co-founder Chicho Rodriguez designed their boldfaced logo with a hidden message. Silhouettes of people may be seen in the letter “A”s and this is to honor all the people that make the brand, especially its customers.
Chicho believes listening to your customers can give you insight on what your next business move can be. “We opened the coffee shop in 2016 in this building. We all wanted to have this coffee experience like the one we had in Australia. They had their own charm and we wanted to share that coffee experience here. We did cocktails back in 2016 but I think the market wasn’t ready yet. The population was so different seven years ago. So now our customers are actually asking us if we’ll have cocktails again. When they are the ones to ask, you listen. They’re ready for it.”
Caravan Black new cocktail menu: All mixed up
Caravan Black is set to release a new cocktail menu concocted by mixologist Clayton Paul Munar who has been in the bar service industry for 15 years. They shifted the look of their interiors, thanks to Lara Fernandez of Larawan Ink, to create a more cozy atmosphere that’s conducive to enjoying cocktails—French-inspired with wood paneling, Art Deco lighting, and gold molding.
Key pieces of artwork by Dan Matutina that bring to mind Hopper and Magritte also seemed to create the color palette—a rich dark green—of the rest of the cafe.
“I think this is the best time to push our new cocktail menu because our interiors are darker and we can push in the afternoon a bit more,” says Caravan Black co-founder Rico Serrano.
“We wanted to do something more in the theme of easy drinking cocktails like low ABV cocktails. It’s not the kind of drink you have at a bar at night and the alcohol is really high and you get a buzz. This is more easy drinking and you can have it during the day,” Chicho explains.
The Caravan Sour incorporates Jim Beam bourbon, lemon egg white, and a surprising addition of kimchi lending a slight spice kick. The Garden Sangria is a refreshing mix of Tangueray Seville, Cointreau, orange, tangerine syrup, and bright Prosecco.
Coffee lovers who want to try cocktails will be delighted to know there is a Café Sbagliato, which has a coffee-infused Campari, Martini Rosso, and Prosecco. For those who don’t drink alcohol, there are mocktails as well. The Caravan Colada is an excellent and aromatic blend of pineapple, coconut syrup, lemon, cold brew, and cinnamon syrup.
Not the usual, please
A special menu of bar bites by Him Uy de Baron was made to pair with the cocktails. “We try to be as involved as we can in terms of R&D and it’s always a collaboration between a lot of us. To R&D these bar bites, it took a lot of sessions. To be honest, these were very, very delicate and needed a lot of finesse. Good thing chef was here to guide us,” Miguel reveals.
The DanDan Lasagna is an exciting fusion between the Italian favorite filled with ground pork, tantanmen sauce, and soy milk bèchamel. The Thai Glazed Chicken Wings are three large portioned wings glazed with caramelized fish sauce and garlic peanuts with a side of pickled vegetables, while the salmon skewers have salmon belly glazed with a sweet and tangy tamarind sauce.
With this new cocktail and bar bites menu, Caravan Black hopes to strengthen their ties with their neighborhood and longtime patrons, and create new ones with those who enjoy good coffee, food, and naturally a good time.
“You can’t force a relationship with your customers. It has to be organic. For you to become a neighborhood spot, you need to forge that relationship over time. It becomes more than the product you’re selling,” says Miguel.