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The Ugly American Coffee House in Dusseldorf, Germany

Ugly American

Whether you are just passing through or making Düsseldorf home, the Ugly American Coffee House offers a familiar sanctuary for the American abroad.

Just nine months young, the Ugly American Coffee House in Düsseldorf is carving out its own unique caffeinated niche by serving creative caffeine and delicious munchies in a cozy café.

When San Francisco native Maha Shamiyeh moved to Düsseldorf, she kept her eyes open for the perfect place for her west coast style coffee house vision. She found it at Bagelstraße 130, a glass front shop with the just the right vibe.

While searching, she was teased by her German brother-in-law that she was the epitome of an ugly American. She cast aside the offense and grabbed the brilliant name for her ultra-hip coffee spot.

The Ugly American claims the “most interesting alcohol-free drinks in Germany” with good cause. In addition to a delectable array of macchiato, espresso and cappuccino, Ms. Shamiyeh has gifted the drink menu with tastes from all over the globe little found elsewhere in Düsseldorf.

The Kaffee Americano is espresso with ice water while the Rocket Fuel (aka Hangover Help) is coffee with a shot of espresso. The Edel Kaffee offers a taste of Ethiopia or Nicaragua, the Cubanischer is espresso with sugar and milk and bringing home the caffeine is The Ugly, a latte with Kahlua flavor topped with a marshmallow. Syrup flavors come in 21 varieties including amaretto, caramel, gingerbread and almond as well as sugar free choices in chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla.

The teas get ever more extraordinary from the classic bottomless pot of English Breakfast Tea to Chai Lattes to Fresh Peppermint. The Matcha Green Tea Latte with sugar and hot milk is the Ugly American’s version of a Japanese traditional tea ceremony tea.

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A rarity in Germany, the Ugly American offers rich hot chocolate with milk and cream and a spicier version in the Mexicanische Heise Schokolade. The Steamer is another tasty treat made of hot milk with once of the house syrups or wild honey.

Two of the Ugly American’s cold drinks are deliciously exotic concoctions: the Thailandisches Iced Tea made with Orange Pekoe leaves and the Indische, a luxurious yogurt drink with mango or your choice of delicious syrup flavors.

All of the Ugly American’s drinks are made with bio-certified, fair trade ingredients of the highest quality including their milks and soy drinks. Another slice of Americans is that all the coffee and teas can be served cold and iced, a simple transition that fails in even the large coffee chains across Germany.

In addition to coffees, teas and chocolate drinks, the Ugly American has regional staples like Italian sodas (mineral water with flavored syrup) and schorles (mineral water with fresh juice). And any non-caffeinated drink is available in a mini version for kids.

In fact, the Ugly American is a very kid-friendly place. For starters, it is brazenly 100% smoke-free in a city where it’s difficult to escape second hand fumes. A tiny nook near a bookshelf is painted with imaginative rainbows and landscapes and fitted with a miniature table and chairs to make the Ugly American’s youngest visitors feel at home.

Visitors of all ages can find refuge around café tables, in cushy leather couches or by delving into the Ugly American’s bookshelves with offerings in English and German, including the famed novel where the coffee house got its name.

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Paintings and photographs from local artists rotate monthly filling the cozy café with color and style. Owner Maha Shamiyeh invites expats and others for once-a-month nights of an English-speaking board game club. The Ugly American also has free wireless internet. Laptops are welcome but cell phones tend to interrupt the groovy West Coast vibe that the Ugly American creates so effortlessly.

A vibe that includes bagels and sandwiches that represent the great ones – from Boston to Philly to San Francisco – the perfect side to a piping hot bowl of the Ugly American’s Vegetarian Chili. And did someone say dessert. The Ugly American’s one of the few joints offering fresh baked muffins, brownies and classic chocolate chip cookies alongside the German staples of croissants and cakes. Two words: Yum-my.

Ambiance, art, a good read, tasty treats and the classic cup of joe (in endless varieties), yes the Ugly American has it all. Nestled in a modern urban German landscape, the Ugly makes everybody feel right at home.