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First Look: Helvetica 

The Lakewood food scene continues its unabated expansion with Helvetica, which is located in an unassuming storefront on Detroit Avenue's east end. If the name sounds familiar, it should: Helvetica is a font that changed the face of visual advertising, as evidenced in the documentary of the same name.

When owner Edward Padilla selected the name, he wanted to incorporate all the creative elements this typography brings out in design. "We felt Helvetica was a clean font, so we wanted an establishment that had clean lines and an artsy vibe, all wrapped in a music influence," explains Padilla.

Scan the inside of this quaint, Bohemian-come-Latin-style coffee shop and you'll detect the Helvetica effect. Since its October launch, the spot has become popular with artists, designers and students of nearby Virginia Marti College of Art and Design. "We picked this location because it is the forgotten part of Lakewood," adds Padilla. "We wanted to be part of Lakewood, but also draw from the surrounding communities."

But you don't have to be arts-minded to appreciate the creativity of the menu. A sort of sister establishment to Barroco Grill, another Lakewood success, Helvetica features fresh, Latin-style juices and smoothies along with Colombian-inspired tacos, sandwiches and salads. The guava and banana juice is as unique as it is refreshing. The smoothie's contents—fresh guava juice, bananas and milk – are said to fight aging. The peanut butter and banana smoothie might be even healthier thanks to the inclusion of soy milk and a secret ingredient (shhh, it's spinach). If it's beer or wine you crave, you'll have to bring it in yourself. But for a caffeine boost, you're in good hands as the shop offers Rising Star Coffee from Ohio City.

Hungry? Give the maduro sandwich a try. Superbly seasoned and tender barbacoa beef is packed into French bread and topped with lettuce, tomato, plantain slices, mozzarella, cilantro pesto sauce, and garlic aioli. Delicioso! The broccoli slaw tacos follow in the fine tradition of Barroco, with a sweet and spicy house-made slaw topped with black beans. The unsung heroes of the menu, though, are the sauces, made daily by Padilla and manager Nathan Melaragno. "We use no preservatives in our sauces and work really hard to push the envelope of flavor," says Melaragno. Two standouts are the Special Sauce, made with fresh cilantro, pickled jalapenos and garlic, and the pineapple and strawberry habanero sauce. The sweetness from the fruit tempers the blow from the high-test hot peppers.

Other items like the spinach salad and a few dessert crepes also sound tempting enough to warrant a return visit.

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