DINING OUT - ENTERTAINMENT

Just Coffee

Just a bit funky but maybe just fun!

How do you begin to explain an establishment that calls itself “Just Coffee”, but has some of the tastiest pizzas in town? That has huge American style cinnamon rolls and very large coffee cups? Where the owner says at our table, “I feel that this is my living room, so I’ll just pour the coffee!” And a place where disadvantaged young girls are taught the restaurant business, to give them, for once, some real choices in life.

Just Coffee is on the mezzanine floor above Kingdom Book and Music in Chiang Mai Land Village, between Chang Klan Road and Mahidol Road. Up the stairs and you are suddenly met with a sea of colours. Orange walls, sofas covered in red, blue, purple and green. In the far corner there is a counter with coffee making equipment, plus some cooking paraphernalia, and a few young Thai girls with big smiles. There are some computer stations opposite the cooking nook and there is a box of children’s toys too, so families are obviously welcome. But in the middle of this bright and cheerful milieu there is the even more bright and cheerful Christa Crawford, who runs Just Coffee with husband Mark.

Christa passes over the real reasons behind Just Coffee with a wave of her hand, saying, “I just wanted some decent sized California sandwiches!” However, the true reason is one of providing an alternative type of employment and training for young people, who through many reasons have been disadvantaged, and for whom the choices of personally satisfying employment are very limited.

The menu is also very limited, but Mark and Christa do have a reminder at the top of each page that “If what you want isn’t on the menu, just ask, we may be able to make it for you.”

There is a page of ‘Specialty drinks’ and Italian sodas with such calorie enriched items as a white chocolate macadamia nut or an almond roca mocha, with most of the 15 choices at B. 65. The Italian sodas are mainly at B. 40 (and the razzleberry Italian soda was brilliant!). There are also another couple of pages of coffees and teas, hot, cold or iced.

There is more than just coffee at Just Coffee, so there are a few pizzas (B. 70-90), wraps (including their own tandoori chicken item) at B. 75, sandwiches at B. 70 and panini B.65-85, bagels, muffins and desserts. All inexpensive.

We began with a Caesar salad (which is incorrectly spelled in the menu, but I have no doubt that Christa could explain it away with a huge laugh) and another salad with chicken, black bean and corn salsa with a Southwest Ranch dressing. Both were excellent and even better when you look at the very small prices asked for.

Next was a panini which featured roasted vegetables with goat’s cheese in foccacia bread with balsamic herb dressing. Huge portion and hugely enjoyable.

I was ready to call it quits at that stage, but Christa was not done with the Dining Out team just yet. A California style BBQ chicken pizza came out next, and this was a remarkably good version, with a thin and crispy, traditional base. And at the price, was just too cheap!

By now, when I say we were not allowed to leave without tasting the American style cinnamon rolls, you will understand! Huge, but a wonderfully sweet ending to our lunch, washed down with Christa’s hand-poured coffee.

It would be difficult not to enjoy a meal at Just Coffee. Christa’s happy bubbling personality is all pervading, so you will enjoy dining there anyway! However, the food is good, coming in very large portions, and is not expensive. As Mark and Christa say in their menu, “Your investment in a great meal also means an investment in the lives of needy people.” Highly recommended.

Just Coffee, 420/11-13 Chang Klan Road, (in Chiang Mai Land Village, running between Chang Klan Road and Mahidol Road and up above Kingdom Book and Music), Chiang Mai, telephone 053 270 544 (ext 109), email mark @ justfoodinc.org. Street parking. Open 9 a.m. until 8 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday.