This morning, after hearing very good things about the coffee and espresso at Zaguán Latin Café & Bakery from several of the folks around the bullpen at Observer HQ who regularly visit the establishment, Roasted finally headed across the street for an early-morning coffee break.
And, we're glad we did, because the café and bakery offers an amazing "Breakfast Special" that's available weekday mornings. Priced at $3.95, the deal includes a 16-ounce coffee and your pick of a croissant, pastry or cachito (a "stuffed bread" filled with various savory ingredients). For just 99 cents extra you can substitute the coffee for a latte or a cappuccino.
With a full coffee and espresso bar, Zaguán serves those coffee shop staples like lattes and cappuccinos, as well as some less-familiar Latin American recipes like a cortado (espresso cut with a bit of steamed milk to temper the coffee's acidity) or a café marrón (it's like an extra strong and creamy cappuccino) -- all of which are made from the café's "Top Quality Colombian Coffee."
Which, it turns out, tastes just as good as we were told.
Located at 2604 Oak Lawn Ave., between Maple Ave and Cedar Springs Road, Zaguán has earned quite the award-winning reputation for serving up a "mosaic of tastes" from Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina.
If you've never been to Zaguán, then your first visit can be a bit confusing as you try to figure out where to order and which of the menu boards or pastry cases to scope out first. To place a "for-here" order, you just take a seat at any of the tables and wait until a server breezes by. For a to-go order, just nab one of the folks behind the counter and tell them what you want.
The full menu and vast pastry selection can be a bit of a sensory overload, especially when it comes time to decide whether to go the sweet or savory route. Then there's the coffee menu board hung just to the left of the shop's La Spaziale espresso machine.
Roasted was tempted to try the café marrón, but, since we were there to try the standard selections, we ordered a "breakfast special" and added an espresso. One early-riser in the Observer bullpen takes a regular mid-morning espresso break at Zaguán, and, when Roasted quizzed him on how the espresso was the former barista promptly fired back, "It's better than Starbucks'."
We've also heard good things about Zaguán's croissants, but we opted for a turnover-style apple-filled pastry, which our server assured us was delicious.
"Please take a seat wherever you like," the server said when we changed our to-go order to a for-here. There were plenty of tables and chairs free in the café, and only one woman was taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi.
On Yelp, damn near everybody seems to like Zaguán's coffee, and it seems most of the folks who offer up bad reviews of the place take points off for slow or inattentive service, but, this morning, we had our coffee, espresso and warm apple-filled pastry within a minute of placing our order. We barely had time to glance around the place and note the warm inviting feel of the cafe or the dark, hardwood floors and bright, earth-tone hues before our server was at our table asking if we needed half and half for the coffee. We didn't.
The coffee and espresso were perfect as served, though we preferred the espresso to the drip. Both were smooth with only a hint of bitterness on the tongue, but the acidity of the drip coffee really came through as it cooled. The pastry was flaky, sweet and paired perfectly with the nuttiness of the Colombian coffee.
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When we'd walked into the shop we noticed a burlap bag of green coffee beans in the window, so, after we'd finished the espresso and the cup of coffee, we flagged down the owner Carlos Branger to ask him a few questions about their beans.
"We used to roast it here, but it was a headache," he said, explaining that nowadays the burlap bag is just a decorative piece. "Now, we get it fresh from a local roaster."
Turns out, Zaguan's coffee -- like sooo many other cafés, restaurants and bakeries around town -- comes from Dallas-based Globex America.
Roasted's server noticed that our cup of coffee was empty and offere to get us a refill, which, though it's not advertised as such, is essentially a bottomless cup kinda thing. "There's no limit on our coffee refills," he says. "If people want to drink coffee here all day, then we'll let them."