Wilmington has no shortage of beautiful coffee shops—and, really, there’s no reason to compare them. From Luna Caffe’s quiet, homey elegance to Bespoke’s bright, trendy energy, all of them boast glamorous qualities. Well, there’s a new beauty in town and her name is Casa Blanca; she is grace, she is pumpkin-spice lattes.
A couple of girlfriends and I went one morning to catch up on the weekend’s events … and eat everything on toast and then some. The last of our trio was running late (as one of us usually does) so a babe who rode with me ordered us a couple of pumpkin spice lattes (PSL) to sip while we waited. (Our friend group doesn’t believe that “basic” is a swear word, so any eye-rolling or finger-pointing will be decidedly ignored.) It was the best PSL I’ve ever had, and gorgeous to boot.
The baristas at Casa Blanca are latte art champs. They make the spice mix in-house, so it was hardly sweet, but it was creamy from decadent whole milk. Notes of cinnamon and nutmeg married with savory pumpkin to create an overall pie-like experience. (FYI: I poked around their website and found the recipe on their blog! I fully intend to try and recreate it at home to add to my own coffee, and let’s be honest, cocktails, too. There are other guides there, such as how to brew like the pros at Casa Blanca. Good stuff.)
Once we all arrived, we ordered some snackage. A flat white, a dirty chai latte, and homemade soda with grapefruit, honey and rosemary accompanied roasted potato hash, the seasonal waffle, two breakfast tacos (both straight up and vegetarian) and all of the toasts—loaded avocado, smoked salmon, and garden veggie. A lovely barista brought us more silverware, assuming we were waiting for more gals. She expressed her jealousy and respect for our big, healthy meal once she learned no one else was joining.
We couldn’t believe how much avocado was on the avo toast for only $9! That’s some serious value. It also came topped with local tomatoes from Britt Farm, gomasio (a dry Japanese seasoning of unhulled sesame seeds and salt), pepper flakes and local micro-greens from Terra Vita Farm. The tomatoes balanced the toast, providing plenty of acid to counter the fatty avocados. The red pepper flakes were a nice touch, too. I put Valentina hot sauce on my avocado toast at home, so I was extra pleased with the heat.
The smoked salmon toast also had a lion’s share of yummy, salty fish. It was piled on a bed of garlic-herb cream cheese and dill. While it was indulgent, it still felt refreshing and healthy.
When we ordered the garden-veggie toast, once again the lovely barista informed us the kitchen was out of cucumbers; we got it anyway. A schmear of garlic-herb cream cheese was the base for a heap of colorful cherry tomatoes and micro-greens. (Both the avocado and garlic veggie toasts came with pickled onions, but we opted out because of my onion aversion.) Even without cucumbers, it was delicious. The cream cheese offered enough protein and fat to create a backbone for the veggies, but it didn’t feel sinful or sloppy.
The breakfast tacos might be the highest value on the menu for just $3.50. The carnivore’s option includes bacon, tater tots, avocado, scrambled egg, cheese and chipotle aioli. Diners who prefer to go meatless can swap out the bacon for black beans. Honestly, a latte and breakfast taco would be enough for a solo breakfast, and extra kudos to whomever decided there should be tater tots on that bad boy. Breakfast tacos can sometimes be mushy, but the tots gave a crunch I’ve been begging for. My only gripe (and it’s hardly one) is both iterations needed a touch more acid, whether hot sauce, zippy chipotle aioli or citrus.
The roasted potato hash was the only thing we didn’t finish—not because it wasn’t fabulous. It’s just our carby toast trio and pile of potatoes filled us pretty quickly. The roasted hash was balanced and hearty with black beans, cotija cheese, salsa verde, avocado and a sunny-side-up egg over roasted taters from Cottle Farms. I let one of my friends break the yolk (because that’s true friendship, right?) and, combined with the salsa verde, it made for a delightful “sauce.” Admittedly, the salsa did render the dish a little wet, but we used the potatoes to sop it up. The meaty texture of the black beans made me forget the dish was actually meatless.
If I had any advice for diners at Casa Blanca this season it would be get the seasonal waffle. I don’t know what’s in that homemade apple cream, but it’s probably sunshine and rainbows and cinnamon and something much more addictive because I haven’t stopped thinking about it. The waffle itself wasn’t very sweet, which was nice, because the apple cream was incredibly, delightfully so. The local apples (Golden Delicious maybe?) were perfect. They almost tasted like pears but didn’t have the same mealy texture that pears often present.
Our second round of drinks was almost perfection. The baristas truly have an understanding of milk texture, so the flat white and dirty chai were a winning combination of froth and cream. The only—and I mean only—thing that fell flat for us was the homemade soda. The flavors didn’t marry well (grapefruit was too bitter, rosemary was too strong, honey was not particularly prominent). More so, it wasn’t quite fizzy enough—more like a little bubble-bathy. But I will be back to try the next one because I firmly believe in second chances.
While I would go back and order our exact order again, truth be told, I’ll probably be back this weekend to try the rest of the menu (I’m looking at you, banana bread with espresso mascarpone, toasted walnuts, honey, and fresh banana) and also pick up some freshly roasted coffee. I poked around the cafe and found the roaster itself in all of its glory.
My highest compliments to owner Marissa Ruehle and her incredibly friendly, warm, and skilled staff. I look forward to coffee with you, too.