Since the rebranding, Mr. Startup on the logo has gone from a cash-grabbing huckster — who must be zonked out of his mind on at least two-and-a-half mochaccinos — to a more sedate, bowtie-wearing, less-copyright-infringing straw-sipper. Gone is the Starbucksian wreath in the backdrop, and some of the dog-eared How to Win Friends and Influence People-type books have been retired in favour of café shelf-calibre knickknacks.
But it’s not the rebranding that tipped me off that Startup was getting serious. It’s the level of the latté making, which went from a Vietnamese café C to a straight-up B+, with clever rosette patterns changing depending on the barista, usually bang-on with foam consistency — for a mere VND29,000. No longer do they stick in the little coffee stirring straw to the takeaway cup’s sippy hole, although the cheap lids still tend to crumble and leak coffee. My advice, jetsetters: get a bag.
While the Wi-Fi passwords at most cafés remain comically simple to hack — try their street address or some sort of lame muffin come-on — Startup’s password is an expression of love: ilovestartup. And they don’t have to pull teeth to elicit this. Just check their bulletin board.
Funny drawings of the Startup guy vie with cute love letters; the younger Vietnamese clientele have plenty of time on their hands. I do a bit of writing at the Dinh Tien Hoang branch, and sometimes get chatted up across the new community table. But mostly it’s iPads, small talk and blended drinks as far as the eye can see.
The music is often terrible, the cupcakes are too sweet. But if you’re looking for that je-ne-sais-quoi that all comfortable places have, Startup’s got you covered. — Ed Weinberg
My home away from home is at 15 Dinh Tien Hoang, Q1, HCMC — facebook.com/STARTUPCOFFEE.VN