Incidentally, I realized I loved this type of food while staying at a lodge in Costa Rica some years back that was renowned for its bird watching. The food of Costa Rica, which sits farther down the narrow snake of land that forms Central America, loses some of Guatemala’s spice, but the foundations are there: black beans, plantains, mango juice. Basically, the ingredients for true love.
The outside of Cafe Kacao looks pretty humble. But once inside, owner Luidgi Del Cid has successfully turned it into a simple, casual spot where the food is the star.
Del Cid comes from a culinary family. His mom, Alba Veronica, opened the nearby Cafe Antigua — another popular Guatemalan spot — but soon missed working in the kitchen when she sold it. At Cafe Kacao, she’s back in the kitchen turning out breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes.
“She’s in charge of everything food-related, and I take care of everything that’s in the front,” Luidgi Del Cid said.
Del Cid said the menu, which boasts almost 50 percent breakfast dishes that are served all day, focuses on more than Guatemalan food.
“There are a lot of Guatemalan restaurants out there. We just bring a different take on a different area of Guatemala and Mexico that people are maybe not familiar with,” he said.
One example of that is the cochinita pibil ($7.99), a dish that hails from Veracruz, Mexico. “It’s pulled pork and we cook it in an orange sauce,” Del Cid said. But, like all of the generous portions at Cafe Kacao, it’s a lot more than that. The cochinita pibil comes with black beans, rice, onions, a plantain and handmade corn tortillas made with guajillo pepper.
I dropped in on a recent Saturday around 1 p.m., and the place was still busy. That says a lot about Cafe Kacao, where the in-the-know crowds have been flocking since it opened earlier this year. I’ve been for lunch and dinner a few times, but it’s the served-all-day breakfast that I really love.
the ever-present Guatemalan xylophone (called the marimba) playing
overhead to get me in the Central American mood, I couldn’t pass up the
mango juice ($3). This is Capital M mango juice, smooth and almost
creamy, with less acidity than its orange cousins. Plus, it comes in a
husband tried the horchata ($2.25), a traditional cold drink made with
rice, vanilla and cinnamon. It was ricier than we were expecting, but
refreshing and creamy without being thick.
also opted for some chips and guacamole ($3.99) to tide us over until
the main dishes arrived. The chips were crisp and not loaded with salt,
and the guacamole was fresh with a dash of lemon — delicious, but unless
you’re super hungry or with a big group, it’s not necessary.
And then the migallas ($7.25) arrived. It was accompanied by a chorus of angels, but that may have just been in my head.
scrambled eggs mixed with a delicious combo of onions, jalapeños,
cilantro, tomatoes and crushed tortilla chips and a cup of green sauce
to add a kick. On the side, refried black beans and those handmade
tortillas equal make-your-own breakfast burritos, and there’s even fruit
topped with a flavorful and tart passion fruit raspberry sauce.
husband was equally enamored with his Izabal dish ($7.25), a mix of
peppery, oniony sautéed potatoes and spicy chorizo sausage topped with
two eggs sunny-side-up and a side of refried black beans.
Del Cid said a patron favorite is the Tikal breakfast ($9.99), which mixes scrambled eggs with thinly sliced flank steak and longaniza, or Guatemalan sausage, with a side of refried beans and fried plantains.
“It’s kind of a little bit of everything, which is why it’s a favorite,” he said.
response has been overwhelmingly positive for this new spot, so much so
that Del Cid recently added a Sunday brunch to Cafe Kacao. Check it out
for yourself and join the growing fan base.
Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive
aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or
service when appropriate.