Monkeys perch precariously overhead holding electric candles in each hand for illumination. Bookshelves overflow with vintage LPs and classic-rock-themed hardcovers. Fairie lights line the place where the walls meet the ceiling, a nostalgic array of ceramic mugs hanging from hooks just below them. The colorful cardboard boxes atop the counter offer tempting treats reminiscent of penny candy stores of yore: Wax Lips, Fireballs, and Mary Janes that would challenge any molar.
None of the chairs or tables match – that adds to their charm. Most belong in a Formica-clad 1950s kitchen. The piano in the corner sports a bust of Beethoven and business cards from local musicians.
Rock memorabilia fills nearly every inch of wall space in this funky, hipster, local independent coffee house right in the heart of downtown Fairfield. Bob Dylan, Elvis, and the Beatles preside over this neighborhood haunt, the “Cheers” of local coffee shops.
The chalk-scrawled menu offers items like “Rock-n-Roll Tomato Soup” and “Big Bertie’s Chili” along with coffee concoctions named for the cadre of Fairfield University student staff.
The clientele is an eclectic mix of yogis from next door (Yoga For Everybody, where I practice and sometimes teach), staff from FTC down the street, Fairfield University students, commuters, and, especially on the weekends, families coming from and going to sporting events. Everyone looks up and smiles, nods, says “hello.” I’ve often fallen into engaging conversations with a wide array of fellow regulars. This is the Anti-Starbucks (and don’t get me wrong – I’m a denizen there as well). A homey, independent enterprise, the likes of which seem to be endangered in these parts.
The owner, Andrew Vetas, presides behind the counter, sunglasses often atop his head, greeting patrons by name and whipping up delicious, custom-made breakfast sandwiches on the griddle. His warm smile and mellow affability spread a chill vibe over the place. If he’s working when I come in, he’ll personally brew me a Jasmine green iced tea sweetened with just a bit of honey that he dissolves with hot-but-not-boiling water before adding it to the elixir.
Like the Cheers theme song says, “Sometimes you want to go/Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”
At Las Vetas, everyone may not always know my name, but they usually remember my drink and make me feel like they’re glad I came. I’m glad that a few of these mom and pop shops still exist in Fairfield county and wish there were more like it. If you’ve not visited Las Vetas, take a drive down Unquowa Road to this gem of a coffee shop, have some joe, and tell Andrew “Namaste” for me.
Photos by Diane Lowman