Books and food are the two things in this world about which I am very passionate. You can imagine my excitement when I discovered a place in Maginhawa Street that combines both: Cool Beans Library Café.
Couple Lot Deleste and Scott Lleva put up a library café with the intention of helping underprivileged students gain access to good books. The collection of reading materials in Cool Beans is so impressive that just the thought of it makes the bibliophile in me extremely giddy. The carefully selected books are a combination of the owners’ personal collection, donations, and garage sale finds. Several genres are well represented in the café: fiction, non-fiction, Filipiniana, classics, children’s lit, young adult, language education, and many more. I was amazed to discover that some of their titles are rare publications. They also have a notable collection of magazines and comic books.
The atmosphere in Cool Beans Library Café is conducive to reading: soft lighting, music playing quietly in the background, comfortable couches and chairs, good coffee (or several other drinks if you’re not a big fan of caffeine), and good food. Their Coffee is locally-sourced, coming from places such as Sagada, Kalinga, and Benguet (P80-hot, P85-cold). Their coffee drinks are fully customizable, just ask the helpful barista. I opted for a sweet and slightly tart Raspberry Iced Tea (P70).
Cool Beans Library Café is the kind of place where you can spend hours upon hours lost in a good book. Eventually though you’ll get hungry and will have to eat. It’s a good thing that Cool Beans gives you the option to do both at the same time. They serve really affordable comfort food in big portions. It’s the kind of food that you can eat slowly, leisurely, while you peruse your reading material of choice. For just P80 you can get a steaming bowl of their Soup of the Day served with a strip of Toasted Bread. They are currently alternating between cream of mushroom and pumpkin soup. They offer all-day breakfast meals such as the three-egg Bacon and Mushroom Omelette (P120) served with whole wheat pan de sal. It is full to bursting and simply delicious.
Rice meals were not originally part of the menu at Cool Beans Library Café but customers started asking for them and so the owners obliged. Some of the crowd favorites are the Pan-grilled Chicken Alfredo (P160) smothered in a creamy sauce and studded with bacon bits, Oriental Pork Belly with Bokchoy (P160) that closely resembles the taste of humba, Pan-grilled Pork Belly (P160), and an interesting dish called Fried Chicken Afritada (P160) which is basically fried chicken drenched in Afritada sauce.
For me, the highlights of Cool Beans Library Café's menu are its paninis and pastas. The Chicken Pesto Panini (P80 half / P150 whole) is served on bread that is crusty on the outside but soft and a little chewy on the inside. The bread is generously smeared with pesto that goes really well the chicken fillets wedged in between. The vegetarian Eggplant Parmigiana Panini (P130) is an open-faced sandwich topped with layers of eggplant slices, mozzarella, herbs, and tomato sauce. The Vigan Longganisa Penne (P160) is topped with a pleasantly garlicky tomato sauce with ground bits of Vigan longganisa.
The baked goods selection in Cool Beans Libarary Café is also noteworthy. Their Red Velvet cupcakes (P75) are moist, soft, and just sweet enough to satisfy your sugar craving. It could use a bit more cream cheese, in my opinion, but other than that it’s great.
I love the fact that Cool Beans Library Café has no WiFi. You are there to enjoy the food, coffee, and books, after all. You should not have to need internet. Unfortunately, the demand for internet has been so high that the owners are seriously considering changing their no WiFi status. The café is a little hard to spot if you’re not actually looking for it. The residential building on which it stands is a little tucked in from the street and has no visible signage apart from a relatively small tarp. Just keep in mind that it’s a stone’s throw away from Holy Family School. These days, a lot of coffee places get a little too crowded. It’s difficult to find a quiet place to have a nice cup of coffee. Cool Beans Library Café is a wonderful, hole-in-the-wall café that lets you read books, study, eat, drink coffee or just hang out in peace. Establishments like this are good for the world.
Visit Cool Beans at 67-A Maginhawa Street, UP Village, Quezon City. Cool Beans Library Café holds sketch parties, poetry readings, book launches, and other events. For updates, like them on Facebook (coolbeansph). Follow them on Twitter and Instagram (@coolbeans_ph).
Photos by Albert Peradilla.