As a child of Mexican immigrants living in the States, I learned about the importance of food — especially sweets — during our visits with family in Mexico. My grandmother always insisted on taking us to Sanborns — the Denny’s of Mexico — for a breakfast of pan tostado con azúcar (butter- and sugar-coated toast) and chocolate caliente. My grandfather would take me to panaderias and let me hold the tray as he grabbed various pastries from the display case with long aluminum tongs. And my father would get as giddy as a chubby schoolboy as he sampled the cloyingly sweet homemade candies of his youth.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard that the folks at No Mas had opened ADios Café (180 Walker St., 404-574-5678, www.nomascantina.com) in a warm space attached to the equally colorful and ornate cantina and furniture store. I was told the name does not mean goodbye, but “of the gods” — a tribute to the Mayans, who discovered chocolate in 600 A.D. and believed it was a gift from the gods. A cute idea even if the name actually translates “to god.”
Handmade chocolate trufas (truffles) run the gamut from a dark round of 72 percent cacao infused with chile de arbol, to smooth white chocolate ringing with tart and tangy passion fruit. Immensely fruity little strawberry pound cake loaves are flavored with Jarritos (a Mexican soft drink), as are substantial cupcakes frosted with bright pink or orange frosting. From the “Panecillo” section of the menu, the Tradicional is like a big muffin of citrusy and airy angel food cake that sticks to your fingers as you tear it apart.
Coffee drinks use beans from a family-run plantation near San Sebastian, Mexico. I wasn’t wowed by the take on Café de Olla, a traditional blend of coffee, cinnamon and cocoa — the coffee loses a certain something when it’s not prepared in the traditional Olla, or clay pot. But the Mayan Mocha was a delightful detour from regular coffee with its mix of chile, chocolate, milk and espresso. The wide variety of hot chocolate drinks merit serious exploration. The standout is the Chocolate Azteca — a combination of dark chocolate, cinnamon and chile de arbol — a spicy concoction that will appeal to both kids and adults. Those seeking something to battle the summer heat should try the frozen shots of espresso blended with flavors like Dulce de Leche and Carmelo. The café also serves Mighty Leaf Teas and chilled bottles of Jarritos and San Pellegrino.
Like the cantina, the café struggles from some rumbles of faux authenticity. I love that they offer churros served in both the traditional and Cajeta-filled versions, but storing them in the refrigerated case ruins the integrity of their crunchy fried crust no matter how much you reheat it. Fortunately, they will fry them to order if asked. The Empanada Mexicana is another item that falls victim to the cold case. Empanadas aren’t really considered a Mexican item, but I doubt any scrambling commuter on his/her way to work will scoff at grabbing the cantina’s savory offering filled with eggs, chorizo, black beans, peppers and cheese. I’m one Castleberry resident who’s already made it a welcome part of her morning coffee routine.
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