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A Street Artist’s Remembrance of Cuba in a Pop-Up Coffee Shop

Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard (All photos by author)

MIAMI — Street artist José Parlá, known for his energetic paintings of figures, animals, and abstractions that explode into swirls of twisting ribbon, has turned into a restaurateur. At The Standard spa and hotel in Miami Beach, he has helped transform a leftover hotel room into a fully-functioning, 24-hour-a-day replica of a Cuban coffee shop transplanted into a corner of Little Havana.

Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard

The “Cafecito” is a collaboration between Parlá and the proprietors of the local restaurant chain David’s Cafe, known for its Cuban food. The shop, which serves a potent Cuban coffee alongside a slew of fried snacks and fresh-pressed sugar cane juice, was inspired by a trip to Cuba, where Parlá’s parents lived before they fled to the United States. After extensive research (which must have included a lot of caffeine), Parlá brought back artifacts and family photos to decorate the pop-up, which opens up onto the hotel’s outdoor patio.

A neon “Cafecito Neptuno” sign adorns a shabby-chic pocket-size space that features a collection of textual murals from Parlá — the hot food case is labeled with a red and yellow “Caliente.” The walls and floor of the shop are adorned with what looks like colorful, patterned ceramic tile but turns out to be a photo mural, based on Parlá’s Cuba snapshots. Photographs of family are sprinkled throughout the space and even the styrofoam cups are hand-labeled with the cafecito’s name.

Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard

The project is a kind of gesamtkunstwerk that forms an experience of a culture that’s still officially blocked from the United States, though its presence is unavoidably felt in and around Miami and elsewhere. The renovation of the hotel room into a coffee shop took just two weeks, but thankfully, the cafe is likely to stay a permanent feature of the hotel rather than an ephemeral pop-up. It seems only proper. Plus, they serve a really great espresso, and that sugar cane juice, our barista informed us, is great for hangovers.

Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard
The sugarcane juicer at Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno
The hot food case at Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno
Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard

José Parlá’s Cafecito Neptuno is located at The Standard (40 Island Avenue, Miami Beach).

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