Shortly after arriving in Helsinki we saw an image of a yellow café kiosk in a guide to local cuisine. We knew from the picture that we needed to find this kiosk before we left Finland. We searched for five days, always coming across one that was similar in shape, but slightly different from the one we had seen in the guide. Finally, on our last day in Helsinki, we made it to Lippa Kiska and were rewarded with coffee, munkki's, and a group of friendly Finnish men.
The interesting thing about this café is that it sits in the middle of a median, with heavy traffic surrounding the median on all sides. Although this kiosk is extremely small, it’s character is large and the character of the customers that frequent the kiosk are even larger.
Within five minutes, we had a handful of older gentlemanly friends – the Lippa Kiska regulars. There was the retired film producer, the orthopedic surgeon, the artist, the rock star and the friendliest, jolliest owner, Pekka, who spoke proudly of his café. The kiosk was built in 1939, along with 40 others that were built in the same circular shape. They were all shut down during the war and stayed closed for years after, until they started coming back to life, one by one, with new owners; selling everything from coffee to t-shirts in these kiosks. The city of Helsinki owns these little establishments, and the owners rent them. They are allowed to add seating, and have an array of services, but they cannot change the historic architecture.
Lippa Kiska sold the usual pastries, and the typical coffee blend, but its uniqueness came from its environment, history, and clientele. The crowd that frequents this café are much older, and seemed happy to sit for hours sipping on coffee and smoking cigarettes with a view of the harbor, and cars zooming around them. They are also quite loyal. The owner’s best friend and fellow employer made it clear that the best part of the job was getting to hang out with his buddies, some of whom he has known for 60 years! Can’t beat that.