La Bodega Verde

I discovered La Bodega Verde on my first visit to Lima while exploring the artist district of Barranco. We were walking atop the park, admiring the colors and murals when we spotted a blue stone wall with tall wooden double-doors—they were thrown open, and beyond them lay a cozy white house with blue shutters, surrounded by a cobbled walk. Patio tables stood along the ivy-covered stone walls, with friends engaged in conversation and people deep in thought.

We ducked through the rounded door into a single opened room with bay windows that filled the intimate low-ceilinged space with daylight. French doors at the opposite end were propped opened, letting in the freshness of the day. Shelves of books and small whimsical art pieces lined the walls and nooks, lending a playful creativity to the space. We were only in the shop a matter of minutes before we'd overheard enough conversations to realize that we were surrounded by brilliant creative minds. It was like that every subsequent visit—our fellow coffee-drinkers were also film-makers, screenplay writers, novelists, and entrepreneurs. Their dreams and visions swirled around our table, and that electric current sparked the whole place.

It was perfect. A Moveable Feast if ever there was one. I spent many afternoons writing a novel in this little café, hearing the happy mingling of languages all around me.

The food was top-notch and fresh, and in the weeks to follow, I worked my way through most of the menu—the Acai bowls, spicy Thai chicken soup, Quinoa salads, sandwiches with Queso Andino from the Highlands, and fresh chiromoya juice. Everything I tasted was extraordinary, and their Americanos were fantastic, with a roast that was always beyond reproach.

It was the epitome of what a coffeehouse should be—a combination of culinary excellence and creative ambiance. A hub for the creatives of the city. The travelers who came through the Bnb where I stayed in Miraflores, were always asking coffee recommends, and without fail, the first place I sent them was here.

The second time I visited Peru, another La Bodega Verde had opened in the district. Fittingly enough, it was built into the outdoor veranda of the modern art museum in Barranco, and just two blocks from Moni's Guesthouse, where I was staying for half a month. There were four baristas there who became my friends—Christina, Christian, Hosea, Luis—and the kind of community they fostered there blew my mind. They all knew my name, and what I was doing in Peru, and every time I walked around the corner and through their gate, I was greeted with a chorus of "Wi-lla!"s and embraced. It was still cold that time of year during certain parts of the day, and sometimes I'd be out on the veranda working and look up to find a blanket folded beside me, or a heater being set up beside my table, with Christian smiling and backing away, already attending to the next customer. My tea was always being re-steeped, and little plates of delicacies were continually showing up unordered at my table.

When the shifted would change, the next barista in would hug me on their way in, and the one leaving would stop by my table and chat on the way out and practice their English while I practiced my Spanish. Christian read me some of his writings nearly every day, and introduced me to a café near my place, called Moustache & Waffles where the only thing on the menu was waffles, and the only things on the walls were posters of American icons sporting handlebar mustaches (Marilyn Monroe, Prince, Elvis, Judy Garland...). And we talked about life—what it was like to be an artist in the States, what it was like to be an artist in Lima, and the challenges in our prospective worlds.

I'd been traveling solo for too long. This place became a welcome respite and home base, as the baristas became my friends. I have yet to step foot in a cafe that was its equal.

On the day I flew back to San Francisco, I came in to say goodbye to everyone, which was surprisingly hard. Hosea said in very practiced English, "I hope Peru was beautiful to you, and I hope you will return. Soon." He scanned my face anxiously to make sure he'd said it right, and I grinned back and hugged him. Christina kissed my cheek and waved, tripping off to re-steep someone's tea. Luis gave me a big hug and wished me best of luck, and Christian gave me a stunning dream catcher he'd made for me the night before.

I still miss them, and this place that proved to be such a hub of art and love and life and impeccable coffee.

La Bodega Verde was beautiful to me. And yes, I will return soon.

TasteWilla Grey