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“Tacky, Expensive, but Only Espresso "Show" in Town”
Review of El Gato Negro - CLOSED

El Gato Negro
Certificate of Excellence
Cuisines: Cafe
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Breakfast
Description: El Gato Negro is a Bookstore/Coffeehouse providing locals and travelers a comfortable place to enjoy whole foods, interesting conversation, amazing coffee, the best selection of books in Central America, and an ambiance which will make you forget that you have spent four hours with us.We source organic and whole foods locally and import what we cannot find here. Our friends are our bakers, yogurt makers, lettuce growers, bee keepers, coconut oil pressers...... We offer an experience unique in Central America.
Reviewed June 1, 2014

When a business is the only show in town, one can develop a love-hate relationship. I expected better from this U.S. expat-owned coffee shop. The mocha lattes we ordered were over-priced (for the setting), but tasty. Service was slow, but we were in no hurry. The wait gave us time to kick back and converse. And, after all, it is Latin America. We went there to get away from the rat-race. The decor is quite tacky (not shabby chic). There is a bonded leather(?) sofa that is so old and worn, it looks like a mangy animal. The floor pillows, looked nasty. We chose the wooden chairs. While we were sipping our mochas, a flea-bitten stray dog sauntered in like she owned the place. The place was quite crowded with foreigners, which wasn't a problem for us. When you are a coffee addict, you do what you have to do to get your fix.

2  Thank Ode2travel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ElGatoNegroSJDS, Owner at El Gato Negro, responded to this reviewResponded June 11, 2014

While you may find our decor "tacky", your opinion is not shared with many movie stars, musicians, artists, writers, interior designers, marketers and the myriads of people who like a good vibe in a coffee shop. The decor features bamboo walls, cloth partitions, stained glass mosaics, a ceramic mosaic bar and beautifully painted furniture to showcase art, jewelry and other concoctions created by our friends. Oh, and it is a bookstore, so it contains lots of books, with bookcases lining four of the six walls. I uploaded pictures to this site to show others what you find "tacky". For what it is worth, in my former life I was a faux finish/Venetian plaster/mosaic artist for several large real estate developers (their private homes) and their wealthy clients.

You claim that our mocha lattes were over-priced for the setting. The mocha latte - made with ORGANIC, high quality beans from our own farm and roasted in our store four to five days a week - is $2.80 ($2.40 plus $.40 tax). In this setting, you also had access to free wi-fi and an assortment (100s) of magazines, mostly current or chronologically unimportant, as well as games, travel guides, Banksy, Far Side and Calvin and Hoobes to peruse, an assortment of tarot cards, coloring books for adults all free for use, and a (usually) tranquil garden setting with a beautiful rancho and lots of plants (which may have been inaccessible depending on whether you arrived in the middle of the roof extensions).

The pillow covers are cleaned quite frequently and the store is mopped and swept several times a day. One sofa is new and the other is Italian leather and old, but not nearly in the state you have described. It lingers because no one wants us to get rid of it. Except for you. You came in the middle of our summer according to the date on this review, which is hot and dusty. You can write your name in the dust that collects on your arm. I know that you were not happy in San Juan based upon your review of the town in this forum. You arrived during the build-up for Semana Santa, which is horribly loud, tacky, cheesy and over-rated nine days of drunkenness loathed by everyone who lives here. I feel bad that you had to experience San Juan del Sur at that time because it is not a fair picture of the town. This year was exceptionally hot and miserable, too.

El Gato Negro is an English bookstore, so yes, we attract a lot of foreigners. We also have a lot of Nicaraguans as regulars and often on the weekends the place is often fifty percent Nicaraguan or more. I mention this because many of our Nicaraguan customers complain about the term "gringo place", as it makes an assumption that Nicaraguans cannot afford and/or don't like the place because there are many foreigners as clients and the owner is from North America.

Your complaint about the dog is something that we cannot control except to kindly kick the dog out, which we do. As in many towns, some dogs roam. This dog has a collar and his owner uses Frontline for fleas and ticks. I know which one you are talking about. She is a sweetheart and sometimes runs inside and hides under a table. Some people find it part of the charm here. Regardless, she is rarely there. The cat keeps her out.

Regarding your complaint about service being slow, it is the high season and we are busy, often times standing room only despite our extensive seating options, including the "wood chairs" you mentioned. Service is not slow. It might take a while to get an order, but that is not because anyone is slow. Just because it is Latin America does not mean that they are slow in working, as your post suggests. Often the staff do not even have an opportunity to take their legal lunch break during the season because they are working at capacity. We make everything from scratch. If there are eight smoothies and ten coffee drinks ahead of yours, it is going to take some time. We are maxed out on staff.

And speaking of staff, that "over-priced" mocha latte pays for university (three of our staff have law, psychology and Business Finance degrees, all paid for by El Gato Negro and they work for me because they make more with me than working in their professions), four live in their own houses that they built and purchased after working at El Gato Negro because they made enough in wages and tips to own their own homes in a town that has become increasingly unaffordable to many Nicaraguans. We also go on an all inclusive four-day vacation at a Nicaraguan resort each year as a reward for all of the hard work they do. They don't just sling coffee and make smoothies; they work in every facet of the operation, including tax, legal and accounting. I put the earnings back into the local economy. Personally, I think that $2.80 for the mocha latte is a fantastic value, let alone all of the good business practices incorporated into the price.

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Reviews (580)
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290 - 294 of 580 reviews

Reviewed May 15, 2014 via mobile

At least in the "Breakfast" category it should be anyway. I'll say, it can be a bit pricier than other places, but it is definitely the best. Fast free wifi, delicious coffee, and a diverse, unique, and DELICIOUS menu. Kelly, the owner, is always keen to stop for a chat as well.

1  Thank Christian M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 7, 2014

I loved this coffee shop... free fast wifi !!! nice atmosphere and delicious coffee. Food looked good, but didn't eat here... closes way too early though !!!!

Thank Txgirlloves2travel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 25, 2014

My friends and I lovesd this place. The coffe was great, and so was the breakfast we had. It was a great atmosphere, and they had wifi. Not only was the coffee great but so were some of the specialty drinks. Would recommend.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Zink3535
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ElGatoNegroSJDS, Owner at El Gato Negro, responded to this reviewResponded January 3, 2015

Thank you for your recommendation!

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Reviewed April 25, 2014 via mobile

Enjoyed the Greek Yogurt, the Californian Bagel, and the Vegetarian Egg Sammie. The atmosphere is open and calm. Our party also enjoyed a coconut water, a cafe latte, a couple berry smoothies, and a couple cups of tea. Why tea? "Coffee is not my cup of tea." We will be back!

1  Thank Enser
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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