Cereal cafes in Europe serving Lucky Charms
Travelers wandering the streets of European capitals in search of old-world charm might just as likely stumble upon from the New World. The might find a bowl of Lucky Charms.
Cafes serving American breakfast cereal have exploded in popularity in Europe. Young businesspeople are tapping nostalgia. They are tapping into novelty. Customers pay between $3 and $9 a bowl. In U.S. stores, you can buy entire boxes of cereal for less.
Cafes have opened in many cities. This has happened in the last two years. These cities include London. Paris., Madrid. Barcelona. Lisbon. Berlin. Hamburg. Manchester. The trend also has a place in the Middle East.
There's no single model for the cafes. But they tend to offer at least 100 brands. They offer dozens of fruit toppings. They also offer candy toppings. They offer sweet syrups. And they have several kinds of milk. The milk includes nondairy and flavored varieties.
Many also serve coffee. They serve cereal-flavored milkshakes. They my offer soft-serve sundaes. Many provide inventive takes on Rice Krispies treats. These are like tiered cakes. The cakes are made from marshmallowy layers of Fruity Pebbles. They are made from Apple Jacks. And they are made from other sugary cereals. Rare varieties from foreign countries also bring in homesick expats.
A classic bowl with milk is still the standard. But they're often topped with combinations. These combinations go far beyond what most Americans would recognize as a breakfast banana sliced over Corn Flakes.
Pop Cereal Cafe is in Lisbon. It has a very popular mix. It includes Froot Loops. It also has Rice Krispies. And it has mini marshmallows and dried strawberries. It is topped with strawberry syrup. It is also topped with a waffle cookie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is served with a side of milk. It comes in a glass bottle.
"Cereal has existed for what, a hundred years?" This was the question posed by one of Pop's three owners, Filipe Vicente. He is 32. "But for a hundred years it was cereal and milk and that was pretty much it. Now this product has so many varieties. The combinations are endless. We think, what about ice cream or pudding? Why not?"
Brightly colored boxes line the shelves at Pop. This is for both practical and decorative purposes. A bunkbed and padded benches let patrons doze off for a quick nap. Pop has also hosted events. These include a pajama party with a live band called Beliche. That is Portuguese for bunkbed.
Vicente was a mechanical engineer until 2016. He said they got the idea from seeing Cereal Killer Cafe in London. It was the first of its kind in Europe. Identical twins from Belfast had opened it in 2014. That was after they saw cereal cafes in the United States. It was also after watching the 2007 independent movie "Flakes." Now Cereal Killer has two more stores in England. It also has branches in Jordan, Dubai and Kuwait.
Cafes had opened in Chicago, Florida and Texas. Most have closed. But two flashy entries opened recently in New York. One is a Kellogg's-branded flagship. It is near Times Square. The other is inside a designer sneaker store. It is in Brooklyn.
But nowhere has the trend caught on quite like it has in Europe. In Europe, grocery stores never stocked the hundreds of varieties that fill entire aisles of American supermarkets.
Nicolas Castan is one of three people behind El Flako. It is in Barcelona. He said the lack of experience led to some risky combinations after they opened in the spring of 2017.
"Almost half the people would make their own. But they wouldn't finish it because they were making really weird mixes, like Froot Loops with chocolate Krave," said Castan. He previously worked in public relations. "So, we tried to make sure the combinations are balanced with both flavor and texture."
On one recent afternoon, all of El Flako's 20 seats were filled. Most seats were filled with Spanish speakers. They giggled at the menu's fruity, chocolatey, honey or healthy combinations. Lining the white shelves around them were colorful boxes. The boxes included Sugar Smacks. They had boxes with Disney Princess and dozens of others cereals. There were also potted plants labeled with first names of famous rock singers. These names included Patti, Jim and Alice. A soundtrack of The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and The Clash pumped out of the speakers.
Castan is 29. He said the nod to classic rock points to the origins of the boxed-cereal boom in the 1960s and '70s. "We have a concept of going back to the roots. We are returning to being a kid, back to the origins."
The combination of novelty and atmosphere were enough to attract Maria Roca. She is a 19-year-old student from the University of Barcelona.
"It's not cheap, but it's not really expensive," said Roca, who had a 5.60 euro combo of Cookie Krisp, Choco Krispies, Kinder chocolates, M&Ms, bananas and chocolate milk. "And it's something original, so I wanted to show her."
Would they be back?
"Yes, for sure," said Amor, who had Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Apple Jacks with honey, apples and wheat milk. "It was really good, and you wouldn't do that at home."