A blog about food
Java Coffee Shop
Start Me Up
Java Coffee Shop has been a 4th Street staple in downtown Ketchum since 1991, where locals pile in with ski boots, bike helmets, babies and bleary eyes, snaking a line around the counter or out the door to chat with familiar faces and forget that the line is moving on without them. “It’s like a morning bar,” said tatted owner Todd Rippo, running a hand through his shoulder-length hair, where the town gathers during daylight hours to get news, make plans and see people. The “real” center for visiting (if technically not the Visitor’s Center), noted Todd.
The slogan to "wake up and live" was born when Rippo tore out of Southern California on a soul-searching, cross-country motorcycle ride and stopped in Ketchum (indefinitely) after peering through the boarded up windows of 191 4th Street. He sold his car and the Harley, borrowed money from family and brought his knowledge of San Diego-style roasting (and San Diego style) to the Java we all know and love--now with locations in Hailey, Twin Falls, Boise and some soon-to-be shops on the East Coast. But all with the same rock n' roll So-Cal soul.
Wife Lisa, who Todd met in Los Angeles, married in 2000 and then brought to Idaho, has added her own flavor and skill to the restaurants, traveling to the local branches for interior design touches and taking over the marketing and social media for the business. Rippo said she's "a very important part of the team."
The food menu is, as Rippo said, a completely “selfish” list: “I just wrote down what I eat for breakfast and called it a menu.” It’s clean, health-conscious and uses scratch ingredients “that mother would be proud of.” Most of the puffy baked goods come from family recipes (via Todd’s sister, Annie) and even the verde crème fraiche and whipped cream are made in-house. “I’ve been eating that Zucchini Bread since I was two,” added Rippo. “The Usual” is an aptly-named local favorite: bagel with cream cheese, sliced tomato and cracked pepper (add avocado—it’s amazing). Then there is the ever-popular "Dirty Hippie Burrito": flour tortilla, two steam scrambled eggs, cheese, black beans, green chilies, verde crème fraiche, chopped tomato and onion (the dirtier the better). For lunch, hit up the Todd-recommended "Homemade Tortilla Soup" or "Tuna Melt."
To warm your toes and taste buds, there is everything from all natural loose-leaf teas and tisanes to micro-roasted organic coffee (yes, Free Trade) flown-in fresh every Monday. Rumors of the infamous “Bowl of Soul”—Mexican hot chocolate, espresso, coffee, fresh whip and ground cinnamon—have reached as far as the East Coast, hailed in both the New York Times and Town and Country. The “Keith Richards” is equally infamous— a quadruple espresso shot with Mexican hot chocolate (and a filterless cigarette if you ask for it) that will definitely leave you bug-eyed and bloodshot. But if you’re itching for a morning kickstart, this will start you up.
Some patrons grab and go without removing their shades, but many plug in and camp by the fireplace, tapping an absent-minded foot and bobbing their head to the “too loud” Zeppelin riffs. The interior is a cozy melange of pink Warhol cows and Elvis cowboys, warm yellow walls, squishy leather couches, and the intermittent squeal of steaming milk and smell of toasted everything. Groups of people are usually lured outside by circles of cushioned seats, either on the deck or patio, to soak up blue sky and wave at sidewalkers.
When Rippo isn’t scrambling eggs and bussing tables at the coffee shop, you’ll see him around town (the one with leather boots and the hot wife) either teaching daughter Frankie how to ride a motorcycle or playing in local band Triple Nixon.
“It’s about being purely honest and not selling something contrived,” said Rippo, referring to both his music and his coffee shop. "No matter how many [Java's] I open, I don’t ever want this place to lose its soul," he added.
Perhaps it's "honesty" that keeps the locals lining up, perhaps it's the recognizable "soul"--Todd also mentioned "heart," "electricity" or possibly "pixie dust" as secrets to his growing success--but in any case, it has brought the town together on the corner of 4th Street and Washington for 21 years. And counting.