Manitas Cafe, a restaurant serving the cuisine of El Salvador, recently opened at Hayes & Cole streets, in the former location of Chinese restaurant Abacus. We stopped in to chat with owner and general manager Chris Rosales to learn more.
The cafe opened on November 18th, following about six months of construction. Rosales said the first week was slow (which was expected, due to the holiday weekend), giving him and his staff some much-needed time to get up to speed.
The menu contains a mix of traditional American fare (bagels, panini) and more traditional Salvadoran items like tamales, pupusas, and breakfast tacos. There's also beer, wine, and a full espresso and coffee menu, with beans sourced from El Salvador. The Mexican mocha is a specialty: the syrup Manitas uses in its mochas and hot chocolates is made in-house from Mexican chocolate.
The cafe's name (Spanish for "little hands") and decor are both nods to Rosales's mother and grandmother, who hail from El Salvador. Rosales said he chose the name because it represents growing up in the kitchen and learning to cook from his mother, who emigrated from El Salvador when she was four years old. Many of the recipes on the menu are hers.
The interior contains several local touches. The mural on the interior west wall was commissioned after one of the cafe's neighbors suggested that Rosales introduce himself to artist Charlie Lennon, who sometimes hangs out at the corner store nearby.
After meeting Lennon, Rosales hired him to paint the west wall, to resemble the hanging vegetables that came from Rosales's mother's kitchen. "They're kind of like psychedelic vegetables," Rosales said. "Lennon calls the avocado 'the orb.'"
Eugene White, an artist that Hoodline profiled last year, lives next door to the cafe; Manitas will have at least one rotating print from White on its walls.
Rosales says he's excited about the neighborhood's warm welcome so far, and looks forward to getting the word out about the shop. Welcome, Manitas Cafe!
Thanks to tipsters Danny P. and Chris M.
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