5 independently owned Latino coffee shops in Chicago serving coffee, bites and hospitality

Some of the best memories of a cup of coffee come from the community we build around it. It’s about tradition and routine, especially in Latino households, where cafe con leche with pan dulce or flan is a staple before the end of a large gathering or as a special treat for guests.

A growing number of Latino cafes around Chicago and the suburbs are filling the gaps in communities that don’t have a chain coffee shop offering specialty drinks and food or are aiming to reach customers who want to support small businesses.

5 picks for Latino-owned coffee shops in Chicago, the suburbs

Mi Corazón Cafe’s traditional café de olla is served hot or iced with a mini concha.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Mi Corazón Cafe, 1636 W. 18th St.; instagram.com/micorazoncafe.pilsen

Xiomara Casas opened Mi Corazón in Pilsen with her dad Artemio Casas’ support, whose father-in-law Abel Sauceda opened Panadería Nuevo Leon next door in 1973. It’s a cash-only modern Mexican spot decorated with twinkling lights and colorful decor.

Their café de olla recipe is proof that the classics never die. It’s a type of black coffee served in a small pot made of clay.

“We put our coffee with water, cinnamon, cloves, piloncillo, which is like a brown sugarcane, and other spices in there,” Casas said. “That’s what makes it the café de olla.”

Artemio Casas and his daughter Xiomara Casas opened Mi Corazón Cafe, a cash-only restaurant in Pilsen.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

It comes hot or iced and served black unless a customer wants to add cream or sugar — but it doesn’t need any.

This cafe de olla is best enjoyed alongside a panini or mole chilaquiles. Or try their most popular dish: a hot bowl of green pozole with chicken, available every day of the week.

Casas operates her coffee shop with a small staff, but Artemio offers support whenever she needs it.

“I opened Mi Corazón in honor of my grandmother,” Casas said. “She didn’t get to see me open.”

It’s now one of Pilsen’s most popular cafes, regularly participating in community events and maker’s markets with local artists and vendors.

A coco flan iced coffee from Tasa Coffee Roasters.

Jim Vondruska/For the Sun-Times

Tasa Coffee Roasters, 4136 W. North Ave., tasa.coffee

The idea for the husband-and-wife team of Jackie and Pierre Marquez’s Humboldt Park coffee shop was born during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stuck at home, they had a lot of time on their hands.

They’d dreamed of owning a business someday, especially with Jackie’s vast culinary experience, but the question was how?

The pieces started falling into place with the help of a small roaster and raw coffee beans. The Marquezes began experimenting with flavors and methods on their patio and eventually laid the groundwork to open Tasa in 2022.

Tasa Coffee Roasters owner Jackie Marquez used her culinary background to create the food and drink items in her Humboldt Park cafe.

Jim Vondruska/For the Sun-Times

The recipe for their coco flan iced latte is inspired by Jackie’s mother, whose coconut flan recipe is a family favorite (and always served with coffee), she said.

“How do I recreate this in a drink?” Jackie asked herself. She paired a coconut base with espresso and caramel cold foam, then topped it with coconut flakes, resulting in a refreshing, well-balanced drink.

Tasa serves a variety of foods that pair well with the coffee drinks on their menu, such as Colombian-style empanadas, Cuban sandwiches and Mexican tamales.

“I get kind of emotional seeing people sitting there rejoicing with their [families] speaking in Spanish or, you know, whichever language,” Pierre said. “It fills my heart to think that we created this in this neighborhood, that nobody thought would support it, that some people thought they didn’t deserve it.”

A horchata iced latte is served at Casa Cactus.

Peyton Reich/Sun-Times

Casa Cactus, 4595 N. Elston Ave.; casacactus.co

The staff at Casa Cactus serves an iced horchata latte on draft at their Albany Park coffee shop.

It all began as a collaboration with Chicago roaster Backlot Coffee, which afforded the cafe more exposure in its first few months of business (they’ve been open for about six months now). They brew an exclusive blend of Backlot beans in-house.

Their horchata latte is dairy-free and pumped out of a nitrogen line most often used for beer, which helps give it a creamy texture. As a final touch, it’s topped with cinnamon.

Owners Ozzy Gámez and Juan Quezada found inspiration in their parents’ immigrant stories. They co-own Plant Shop Chicago, just a few steps north of Casa Cactus, and all of their plant expertise helped them decide on cacti as the coffee shop’s main decor.

Casa Cactus co-owner Ozzy Gámez is photographed amid some of the vast collection of cacti in his Albany Park coffee shop.

Peyton Reich/Sun-Times

Gámez said they thought a lot about what cacti represent. The plants thrive in harsh environments. They represent the hard-working immigrant community of the neighborhood.

“Casa, [home,] represents somewhere safe and warm and loving, and then a cactus represents the struggles and battles and sacrifices our parents have had to make to bring us to this country,” Gámez said. “The whole space is a tribute to our parents.”

It’s filled to the brim with cacti of all varieties (some a part of Gámez’s collection) and tons of natural light, making it a heavenly respite.

A barista finished pouring a churro latte at The Stockyard Coffeehouse in Bridgeport.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The Stockyard Coffeehouse, 558 W. 37th St.; stockyardcoffeehouse.com

Sisters Mayra and Guadalupe Carranza opened The Stockyard six years ago after deciding that Bridgeport needed an inclusive and welcoming place.

“Most people think they have to go to the North Side to get that cute coffee shop vibe, and we wanted to bring that to the South Side,” Mayra said.

Their churro latte is a smooth blend of sweet cinnamon sugar, milk and coffee. It’s served in an adorable heart-shaped mug, in line with the rest of the Mexican imagery and decor around the shop.

They serve latte flights that are also quite popular, with flavors inspired by Latino sweets like coquito, a coconut beverage from Puerto Rico, and Mexican strawberries and cream.

The sisters said most of their drinks are prepared with oat milk but can be modified for different tastes.

Mayra (left) and Guadalupe Carranza are owners of Bridgeport’s The Stockyard Coffeehouse.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

On Saturday mornings they drive to pick up a bulk order of conchas, or Mexican sweet breads, from Montgomery bakery Handmade with Love, to go with Selena Quintanilla-inspired drinks and holiday offerings. In June, they’re selling Pride-inspired conchas on the weekends.

“We’re tapping into nostalgia with the concha,” Guadalupe said. “So it feels good to see other people taking their parents or grandparents here.”

The cafe’s menu also features customizable breakfast sandwiches on bagels and croissants (they have gluten-free options, too) and avocado toast with roasted veggies.

“Coffee is a date that almost everybody can afford,” Mayra added.

A brujería iced latte (dark mocha) is served at Pink Owl Cafe in Berwyn.

Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Pink Owl Cafe, 2713 Ridgeland Ave, Berwyn; instagram.com/pinkowlcafe

Pink Owl’s signature brujería iced latte came to life after owner Alex Herrera’s experimenting with different flavors and styles for some of his friends.

He created a mocha drink using dark chocolate, which made the color so uncharacteristically dark that Herrera could only describe it as “witchcraft” or “brujería.”

It’s an iced mocha that’s not too bitter or sweet, and it can be paired nicely with one of the many types of croissants or waffles on their menu. Additional food offerings include savory items like avocado toast and a breakfast egg wrap.

Pink Owl opened last October, but is seeing a lot of success thanks to word-of-mouth and the giving spirit of other Latino business owners.

Alex Herrera, owner of Pink Owl in Berwyn, works behind the coffee bar as a barista.

Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

The space used to belong to Crepas Culichi, a Mexican crepes restaurant (now located in a bigger site in Oak Park). Since Herrera was Culichi’s former photographer and social media manager, the owners gave him and his family used espresso machines and other equipment to cut costs as they embarked on their own cafe business.

And Breeza, Herrera’s daughter, is a “key part” of Pink Owl’s day-to-day operations. She helps open and close the shop when Herrera is off photographing jaripeos, Mexican bull-riding events around the country.

Herrera said he’ll never charge customers extra for making modifications based on a guest’s diet or preferences, keeping their product affordable for all generations of coffee lovers.

Pink Owl shares a back patio with a cigar shop, making that area 18+.

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