Bratislava Cafe Culture Evolving in Leaps
Bratislava has discovered the allure of cool cafes. A few years ago, Next Apache run by a Canadian expat was pretty much the only cool place to go. But over the last year or so cool cafes have sprung up around the Old Town, a few even turning into successful chains overnight. There is no Starbucks in Slovakia as of 2011 but this is where cool Slovaks get their caffeine fixes:
This cool cafe became a sensation overnight. They opened their first location in Sturova near Safarikovo Square and within months opened another two: one in Panska in the pedestrian zone of the Old Town and another one in Obchodna, sharing space with the friendly Slovak bookshop Martinus. All three Shtoor locations are packed pretty much all day every day.
Shtoor is quirky - its name and theme draw on Slovak history, using an anglicised version of the name of a Slovak historical character, Ludovit Stur, who codified the Slovak language in the 1800s. Stur's version of Slovak lacked the letter y, replacing it with i - something many Slovak pupils would appreciate given the complexities of choosing between these two identical sounding vowels in modern Slovak grammar.
In addition to good coffee and friendly atmosphere with young and personable staff Shtoor sells homemade cakes, hefty sandwiches, shuns colas and other commercial soft drinks in favour of homemade lemonades. There is a lot of innovation going on with an ever-growing selection of Shtoor-branded goodies. The crowd is young, trendy and sometimes geeky.
Tucked away in a courtyard in Obchodna, St. Germain is a delightful French-style cafe and bistro with a cult following. Coffee is good, sandwiches and cakes are great, as are the home-made soft drinks.
Again a young crowd fills the bistro during the day sipping lattes and teas and in the evenings sipping wine.
Greentree is a fast-growing Bratislava chain, going back a few years, hitting all the right buttons for up-to-date caffee coolness. Striving to be environmentally responsible is not yet too fashionable in consumer culture, so Greentree deserves credit for this.
Branches in shades of green include a shop in Obchodna, Jesenskeho and a multi-level oasis at Venturska in the pedestrian zone of the Old Town. The coffee is great, service genuinely friendly (order and pay at the bar) and there is again an array of own-brand products such as delicious iced tea. The homemade ice cream is well worth sampling regardless of the weather.
More Great Cafes
A few more city centre cafes deserve mentioning - they are not in the very centre of the Old Town, so the crowd is a little more neighbourhood based (work meetings during the day and locals in the evenings) but all of them guarantee great coffee and atmosphere: Next Apache is an institution by now, residing in the atmospheric Panenska near in the bohemian residential neighbourhood of Palisady. It is a libresso and in the evenings almost a pub and the artsy and intellectual crowd can be quite engaging. Needless to say these people would not feel comfortable if they were not allowed to smoke inside.
Cafe Axioma in Cintorinska serves plantation coffees and is deservedly packed with people from nearby office buildings. The interior, despite being in a newly built business centre, feels like another planet.
Corny Cafe at the corner of Grosslingova and Bezrucova is another pleasant place with friendly service with lots of smart people coming for work meetings during the day.
Merian in Tallerova is a neighbourhood cafe, rating high on the coolness scale.
La Putika gained a following at its location in Mytna, outside of the centre, but has now also set up shop in Klobucnicka, near the pedestrian zone and tourist office. Charming and friendly (and smoky, fitting the name, which roughly translates as a dive).