It all started innocently enough on Twitter. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but apparently I suggested to Toby Srebnik that Dunkin’ Donuts should sell Cuban Coffee and Cafe con Leche.
At the time, Toby was working his marketing magic at Tilson Communications – he has since moved on to another agency – but I don’t recall if he was tweeting as himself or using their client’s Dunkin’ Donuts’ Twitter account.
As it turns out, Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) eventually chose to offer Cuban Coffee and Cafe con Leche at their South Florida locations. I assume their decision was based on many factors, but my ego would love to think that I somehow influenced their plan. The super-nice Alexia Davis of Tilson cordially invited me to attend their Cafe con Leche promotional event at the Weston Road Davie location. Although scheduling conflicts didn’t allow PALO! to accept their invitation to perform live at the event, I was able to offer a copy of our CD, This Is Afro-Cuban Funk, to be placed in each of the cool gift bags that all attendees received.
When I heard about their plan to sell Cuban coffee, I must admit I was a bit skeptical, despite my initial suggestion. I’m a Cuban coffee fanatic, especially when it comes from a homey place like El Exquisito, one of my favorite Little Havana hangouts. Not being a huge doughnut enthusiast, I don’t frequent DD on a regular basis, but I’ll occasionally stop in for a cup of American coffee. I think they do a great job at that. ¿Pero cafe cubano en Dónki Dónah? Could it possibly compete with the real deal?
When I approached the location for the event, I was surprised to see a little window where you can order from the sidewalk, just like Cuban cafeterias! Upon entering, the place looked big, bright and shiny, if somewhat generic, like most of their stores. Since I was early for the event, I went up to the counter and noticed that their menu board has a new addition:
I ordered a “Colada” from the friendly, Anglo-looking young man, who asked if I’d like sugar in it. This is almost never an option at a Cuban joint; “cafe cubano” is traditionally sweetened with sugar unless you specifically request otherwise. The very cheery employee proceeded to prepare my order (con azucar) using the same machine used for regular espresso.
This “Colada”, $1.26 with tax, contained about half the amount of product I’d expect for a similar price at a South Florida Cuban cafeteria. The Cuban coffee looked perfect: dark, with a nice foam on the surface. The taste was good, but didn’t quite equal a classic “cafecito cubano”. Slightly on the watery side, it fell somewhere between an Italian espresso and a Cuban coffee.
As the event got going, the nice folks from Tilson PR and Dunkin’ Donuts treated us to Cafe con Leche and some samples of sandwiches and donuts. Since this was a Twitter-driven event, we were told that adding the #DDelish hashtag to our tweets would make them easier to search. It was fun to meet the attendees, including bloggers, media, and interested Tweeps, some of whom I’ve known on Twitter for quite a while but hadn’t previously met in person. We compared opinions about the various products. Most people really liked the Cafe con Leche. One person said they preferred theirs slightly darker, as do I. Aside from that personal preference, had I not known better, I would have believed that this was authentic Cuban Cafe con Leche; I was very pleasantly surprised. My favorite product was the Tuna Melt; I’ll definitely order that on a future visit.
This was a really fun event. I got some cool swag, including a DD USB drive, and it was nice meeting everyone. Honestly, although their Cafe con Leche was good, it probably won’t make me pass up a funky Cuban place to find a Dunkin’ Donuts. But I love how you can get it at South Florida DD locations. Now, as I see their ubiquitous stores in Miami, I smile, knowing I had something to do with the Cubanization of Dónki Dónah!