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TLO Restaurant Review: Café Kacao

Even though I am admittedly a novice when it comes to Guatemalan cuisine, since moving back to the Metro a few years ago, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the epicurean experiences I’ve had sampling various menus around town, from the pan fresco and pupusas at Tienda Guatemala, 1001 N. Virginia Ave. to the caldo de res and pepian de pollo at El Rinconcito, 1317 N. May Ave., but the one joint that’s always fallen short of my grasp, through no fault of its own, mind you, has been local favorite Café Kacao, 3325 N. Classen Blvd.

Café Kacao is only a few blocks from house and a restaurant I’ve desperately wanted to try for quite a while now, but everytime I’ve been by there, estómago enojado, there always seems to be a line out the door, especially on weekends—more power to them—so I always keep going, figuring I’ll try again next week.

I guess TLO editor Patrick must have a bit of pull or something because when we met there for breakfast last Friday, even though the place was busy, we were seated quite quickly, menus handed out and waters on the tables muy rapido. As our waiter took drink orders, even though I heard through the grapevine Arabica bush their café was some of the best in the city, I quietly panicked and order a fresh mango juice ($3.50), sipping on it as to make every sacred sweet nectarous drop last until, at the very least, our comida arrived.

The wait was a short one, with only a scant few moments of local hot goss small talk bandied about when our absolutely regal plates, leaving an aromatic trail of steam as they were brought out, were set before us like a pair of conquistadores del hambre, beautifully presented. While I had decided on the Desayuno Chapin ($10.00)—considered “Guatemala’s most traditional breakfast” according to the menu—as well as a small cup of a native take on oatmeal called mosh ($3.00).

My Chapin was a clarion call that I was unprepared for, an edible alarm clock that I had forgotten to set the night before, from the cloud-like eggs and studiously curated black beans to the angelically caramelized plantains and pillow-esque tortillas, all coming together at once to form a mega-desayuno of sorts, a breakfast set-piece with all the piquant pieces forming a grand puzzle that was a digestive pleasure to solve.

And, as satisfying as that was, I was doubly pleased with the mosh, a wonder-driven concoction that is anything but the pits. Resembling something of a milkier oatmeal, this two-spirited convection was effervescently potent thanks to the most welcomed cinnamon stick flavoring the proceedings from the bottom up, a breakfast cereal suitable for just as much well-timed sipping as it is swallowing whole. This was warm mother’s milk for cold grown children, nourishing and comforting.

Patrick bandied up with some Kacao’s home-grown variation on the perennial fave Huevos Rancheros ($10.00). Normally here would be the part where I tell you, el lector salivante, what I thought of my dining companion’s dish, but, sadly, Patrick and I aren’t exactly “eat off each other’s plates” close and, to be fair, I wasn’t quite sure how to broach the subject, so, instead, I could only admire (and deeply considered at to-go order of) those expertly-plated Huevos Rancheros, the black beans and sunnyside-up eggs artfully divvied up amongst various scatterings of queso fresco, feta, ranchero sauce and a.m.-appropriate guacamole that he was dutifully enjoying.

In retrospect, this breakfast really would have been well worth the wait, standing outside for upwards of 15-to-45 minutes just to sample these fully aware but geographically reconstituted flavors for the first time all over again. As I sat there, allowing my food to digest I played future scenarios in my head where I would return here, eager to try the Migallas and, one of my all-time favorite dishes, the Machaca, maybe even outstaying my welcome until the ever-creeping lunch, wherein I may sample such constant cravers as the Frijolada or the Cochinita Pibil.

As I sat there daydreaming, I didn’t even notice that Patrick had ordered a special treat of churros for us, the sweet, sugary pastry and Nutella drizzle sending me home and, instead of being ready to face the brand new day, lulling me gently back to sleep on the couch, waking up roughly around 4 p.m. to torrential winds and darkening heavens.

“Let me dream of Café Kacao just a few minutes more…” I said to no one in particular. ¡Cómpralo ya!


Is it true the Kacao is getting a dinner menu? Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.

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