by Jax Kiel
Latino Heritage Month is underway, and we are celebrating the best way we know how: by visiting small businesses owned by members of the diverse Latino and Hispanic communities throughout Seattle.
Wondering why Latino Heritage Month begins in the middle of the month? Sept. 15 marks the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexican Independence Day is Sept. 16 and Independence Day in Chile is Sept. 18.
Check out these three eateries — Cuban, Mexican, and Salvadoran — to start off your Latino Heritage Month celebration and be sure to visit Intentionalist’s Latinx Heritage Month landing page to check out a variety of fun promotions that include prizes from Seattle Sounders FC and Seattle Seahawks.
Café Con Leche
Band members and business partners Pancho Chavez and Pedrito Vargas opened Café Con Leche in 2012 because they wanted a place to play live music and serve authentic Cuban food. Café Con Leche and the adjoining Club Sur are now owned and run solely by Chavez. Chavez says he wants everyone to feel comfortable at his restaurant and to feel like they’re chowing down on food from the neighborhood. He wants Café Con Leche to be like the neighborhood restaurants in Cuba that are welcoming and full of delicious food, vibrant colors, and great music.
Chavez’s small business allows him to provide a comfortable and consistent environment for his employees, especially those of whom are members of BIPOC communities. He says when people support small businesses like his, they are not only supporting the owners’ families but also the employees and all their families. He gave the example of Café Con Leche’s chef, who bought a house for her mother in El Salvador.
The menu is full of recipes from Vargas’ family, who come from Pinar Del Río, Cuba, and Chavez prides himself on buying high-quality, fresh ingredients. His personal favorite dish is the Churrasco Timbero, which is a drool-worthy 10-ounce Angus prime skirt steak with a side of moros and maduros. Chavez says he doesn’t make any money on the dish, but it doesn’t matter because his customers love it.
“I think [my favorite thing about the community] is a little bit of everything … Because we are in SoDo we can be loud after hours, when the restaurant closes and the [music] venue opens. We can be loud and we don’t have to worry about bothering anyone. And the people are awesome. You know, we get people from everywhere: from England, from India, from Africa. It’s good to meet them.”—Pancho Chavez
Antojitos Lita Rosita
Rosa Juarez is originally from San Pedro, Villa de Tututepec, which is a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico. She always had the dream of opening Antojitos Lita Rosita — driven by passion stemming from her kitchen-centric family — but was never quite sure how to start it. She learned about the Food Incubator Program run by 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 living her dream.
It’s obvious that Juarez has never given up and she is still working hard every day. She wakes up at 5 a.m. each morning to cook her food and is ready to sell by 10 a.m. in the plaza. Juarez said it’s been hard, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, to wake up every day hoping she makes enough daily sales.
Juarez says she loves the curiosity people have for her food. She welcomes people to come and ask about the dishes she sells, because she says it connects her to her customers. Every item on Antojitos Lita Rosita’s menu is delicious, but Juarez’s favorite — and huge crowd pleasers — are the tostadas de tinga and the sopes.
“My food is an extension of my Oaxaca culture. I love showing new clients foods that are originally from Oaxaca like the tlayudas, which can be described as a thin quesadilla with rich meat and cheese fillings!”—Rosa Juarez
Salvadorean Bakery & Restaurant
Sisters Aminta Elgin and Ana Castro grew up in the business of baking: Their grandparents ran a bakery in El Salvador. Castro, always the people person, would take the baked goods out and about to sell while Elgin, a talented baker, would help her grandmother. At their business, Salvadorean Bakery & Restaurant, their roles are the same. Elgin bakes and Castro greets customers with a smile.
Some customers visit almost every day, and some have been visiting since the doors opened in 1996.
Salvadorean Bakery & Restaurant has served as a tool for Aminta and Ana to support not only their family but also their communities in Seattle and in El Salvador. They use their platform to be vocal members of the community, meeting with local Latino organizations and even traveling to the White House to fight for health care for all. Elgin, a huge soccer fan, also makes a point to support local sports in Seattle and El Salvador.
The display cases at 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 are the pastelitos de leche, which she makes using recipes from her family.
“We like to have a little bit of our culture here in Seattle. It’s very nice. When you come in here you feel like you are in El Salvador, a little 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.
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