There’s a new spot open on Jefferson Boulevard bringing a combination of coffee, pastries, Mexican food and mezcal to North Oak Cliff.
In the front sits Xaman Café, a pretty coffee shop filled with natural light, its dining space behind a modest patio to allow car-watching on Jefferson.
Inside, walk down the wood-paneled hallway and you land in Ayahuasca Cantina.
Everything is still coming together: It’s a new restaurant and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. On a recent visit, the paper menus of Ayahuasca had little green pin marks — checks indicating which items on the menu were available for the evening — and vacancies on the shelving alongside the back wall of the bar.
Co-owners Gerardo Barrera and Mauricio Gallegos are bringing this concept to Dallas, and — full menu or not — we’re ready for it.
Come the day when we can safely eat among other people, the dining area of Xamán will be a lovely place to sit, whether that’s with a friend across the table or a laptop in front of you. The drink menu has plenty of options. You can get a shot of double espresso ($4) or an Americano ($4). But make a return trip and try the Xaman horchata ($5 iced or hot) or the Oaxaca mocha ($5 iced or hot).
The kitchen is the physical center of these two concepts. Swinging doors on either side of the back-of-house take dishes by chef Hugo Galvan to guests. Galvan was most recently at Casa Komali (it closed before the pandemic) and was previously at El Bolero, Stephan Pyles’ Flora Street Cafe and Regino Rojas’ Purepecha Room.
On our recent visit to Ayahuasca, those plates involved flor de calabaza frita rellena de queso y conejo ($15). Squash blossoms were filled with seasoned braised rabbit, spinach and cheese and fried before resting on a carrot puree.
The tostada de ceviche had fresh fish, a pico relish and serrano oil that in no way made the dish spicy ($15). The tostada part was nearly figurative — a thin rectangle wafer sat atop the bowl. It would be a perfectly fine dish to share if we were in such a world where that was safe.
This writer is a particular fan of hibiscus — in aesthetics, tea or food — and the flats de jamaica sound worth trying ($9). It wasn’t available on our visit, but crispy taquitos filled with sautéed hibiscus flower in house-made blue corn tortilla with pistachio puree and house salsa are definitely what we’re ordering next.
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The vibe of the cantina is lovely — both that space and the front are wonderful additions to the North Oak Cliff neighborhood — but it will be more pleasant when social distancing isn’t so vital.
The dark space is small. Staff does make sure to count individuals to make sure they don’t pass their 50% capacity mark, and tables are spaced throughout the smaller room.
If you feel safe dining in, or you’re still adding to that list of places to visit when you do feel safe, this is a spot to keep on your radar. It’s great if you’re within walking distance, and it’s worth driving to if you don’t live in North Oak Cliff.
Xamán Cafe and Ayahuasca Cantina, 334 W. Jefferson Blvd. (North Oak Cliff). Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday and 10 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Sunday.