If you’ve ever been on a scavenger hunt, you know the search is as much about the process of discovery as it is about finding the actual item. That’s the case with the secret menu at Menotti’s Coffee Stop, a renowned coffee bar that longtime coffee pro Christopher “Nicely” Abel Alameda has run in Venice since 2013.
To find the secret menu here, you have to pass by old bourbon barrels, which double as tables, and enter a small bar with wood counters, a blackboard menu and color photos of coffee farmers on its white walls. Stroll up to the wood-slab counter, which is fronted by pressed tin, and look for a black-and-white photo of Cesar Menotti leaning against the wall. (In 1915, Menotti opened a speakeasy in the basement, which now goes by Del Monte Speakeasy, a sister project from Louie and Netty Ryan.) Flip over Menotti's picture and you'll find a printed menu of secret beverages.
Alameda developed a secret menu for two reasons. “[It provides] an added way to engage with some of our clientele that may be looking for a little extra something but don't know where to start,” he says. Signature drinks can also slow bar flow, since they require more preparation and explanation. The secret menu’s detailed descriptions help solve that.
The barista previously worked for Espresso Vivace, Intelligentsia and Handsome Coffee Roasters — and has 20 drinks in his arsenal. The five drinks on the initial menu range in price from $5 to $7. His days working at Seattle’s Espresso Vivace and making the famed Caffe Nico inspired his version. Caffe Rico features a double shot of single-origin Four Barrel espresso, half-and-half, orange zest, a dusting of cinnamon and vanilla syrup made with pods that a friend brings back from Tahiti.
Short Stack is a play on a plate of pancakes. This rich, frothy drink features espresso, Vermont maple syrup, organic heavy whipping cream and cinnamon shaken with ice and strained into a Gibraltar glass. Barista Cody Chouinard's family's maple farm in Vermont comes in handy.
For Love Potion #9, barista Jason Hayes’ wife makes sweet-tart raspberry syrup, which joins espresso, chocolate ganache, sweetened condensed milk and steamed milk in a ceramic cup.
The Kitchen Sink is perfect for the indecisive, since it includes many flavors in one glass: cold brew, chocolate ganache, Tahitian vanilla syrup, chai and milk. Espresso & Tonic, the final selection, is self-explanatory.
To keep these secrets especially interesting, Alameda plans to rotate the menu monthly. In coming months, look for a Cold Brew Fashioned, a Mochaccino and a drink called the Rembrandt.
56 Windward Ave., Venice; (310) 392-7232, coffeeveniceca.com.