Intentionalist: We Celebrate Latin American Restaurants | South Seattle Emerald



by Jax Kiel

Intentionalist is based on a simple idea: where we spend our money matters. We make it easy to find and get to know small businesses and the diverse people behind them, and to help them make day-to-day decisions about where to eat, drink and shop. #SpendLikeItMatters

Latino Heritage Month is on, and we’re celebrating the best way we know: by visiting small businesses owned by members of various Latino and Hispanic communities across Seattle.

Wondering why Latino Heritage Month starts in the middle of the month? September 15th marks the anniversary of the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexican Independence Day is September 16 and Chile’s Independence Day is September 18.

Check out these three restaurants – Cuban, Mexican, and Salvadoran – to kick off your Latino Heritage Month celebration, and be sure to check out the Intentionalist Latinx Heritage Month landing page to see a variety of fun promotions that include Seattle Sounders FC and Seattle Seahawks prizes.

Café Con Leche

Photo with a sandwich made from Cuban bread, prawns and a light green lettuce and sauce.
A Camarones Salteados sandwich with Cuban bread and prawns. (Photo: Café Con Leche)

Band members and business partners Pancho Chavez and Pedrito Vargas opened Café Con Leche in 2012 because they wanted a place that played live music and served authentic Cuban food. Café Con Leche and the adjacent Club Sur are now wholly owned and operated by Chavez. Chavez says he wants everyone in his restaurant to feel comfortable and like they’re eating the neighborhood food. He wants Café Con Leche to be like the neighborhood restaurants in Cuba, which are inviting and full of delicious food, vibrant colors and great music.

Chavez’s small business enables him to provide a comfortable and consistent environment for his employees, especially those who are members of the BIPOC communities. He says when people support small businesses like his, they are not only supporting the owners’ families, but the employees and everyone your Familys. As an example, he cited the cook at Café Con Leche, who bought her mother a house in El Salvador.

The menu is full of recipes from the Vargas family, who hail from Pinar Del Río, Cuba, and Chavez prides itself on buying quality, fresh ingredients. His personal favorite is the Churrasco Timbero, a droolable 10-ounce Angus prime rock steak with a side dish of Moros and Maduros. Chavez says he doesn’t make any money off the court, but that doesn’t matter because his customers love it.

“I think [my favorite thing about the community] is a little bit of everything … Because we’re in SoDo, we can be loud after work when the restaurant closes and the [music] Venue opens. We can be loud and don’t have to worry about disturbing anyone. And the people are great. You know, we get people from all over the world: from England, from India, from Africa. It’s good to meet her. “

—Pancho Chavez

Antojitos Lita Rosita

Photo showing Rosa Juarez in a red apron standing next to her cart, Antojitos Lita Rosita.
Rosa Juarez is standing next to her cart, Antojitos Lita Rosita, in the Plaza Roberto Maestas. Photo courtesy of El Centro de la Raza.

Rosa Juarez is originally from San Pedro, Villa de Tututepec, a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico. She always had the dream of opening Antojitos Lita Rosita – driven by the passion of her kitchen-minded family – was never quite sure how to start. She found out about the Food Incubator Program from El Centro de la Raza and knew it was the perfect opportunity for her. She has been serving food from Plaza Roberto Maestas since April 2019 and is living her dream.

It’s obvious that Juarez never gave up and still works hard every day. She gets up at 5 a.m. every morning to cook her food and is ready to sell in the square at 10 a.m. Juarez said it was difficult to wake up every day and hope that she would make enough sales every day, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Juarez says she loves people’s curiosity about their food. She welcomes people who ask about the dishes she sells because she says it connects them with their customers. Every item on the Antojitos Lita Rosita menu is delicious, but Juarez’s favorite – and the big crowd favorite – are the Tostadas de Tinga and the Sopes.

“My food is an extension of my Oaxaca culture. I love showing new customers foods that originally come from Oaxaca, like the tlayudas, which can be described as thin quesadilla with rich meat and cheese fillings! “

—Rosa Juarez

Salvadoran Bakery & Restaurant

Photo showing Aminta Elgin and Ana Castro holding delicious Salvadoran dishes in front of their bright orange entrance to their bakery.
Sisters Ana Castro and Aminta Elgin hold delicious Salvadoran dishes in front of their bakery. (Photo: intentionalist)

The sisters Aminta Elgin and Ana Castro grew up in the baking trade: their grandparents ran a bakery in El Salvador. Castro, always the human being, took the baked goods and sold them while Elgin, a talented baker, helped her grandmother. In your shop, Salvadoran Bakery & Restaurant, their roles are the same. Elgin bakes and Castro greets customers with a smile.

Some customers visit almost every day and some since the doors opened in 1996.

Salvadorean Bakery & Restaurant served Aminta and Ana as a tool to support not only their families, but their communities in Seattle and El Salvador as well. They use their platform to be vocal members of the community, meet with local Latino organizations, and even travel to the White House to fight for health care for all. A huge soccer fan, Elgin is also committed to supporting local sports in Seattle and El Salvador.

The showcases in the Salvadorean Bakery & Restaurant are full of traditional pastries from El Salvador as well as some of Elgin’s own creations. One of her personal favorites is the pastelitos de leche, which she prepares according to her family’s recipes.

“We want a bit of our culture here in Seattle. It is very nice. When you come in here, you feel like you are in El Salvador, a small spot in El Salvador. And that’s how our customers describe it. “

—Aminta Elgin

Jax Kiel is a student journalist at Western Washington University and an intern at Intentionalist.

📸 Selected image: A plate of Churrasco Timbero with fresh bread and a drink. (Photo: Café Con Leche)

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