When Café Corazón opened a second location in Crossroads in February, co-owner Miel Castagna-Herrera couldn’t believe they had pulled it off. After all, the first store almost never happened.
“We had a lot of problems getting a lease,” she says. “No one is going to rent to us. They would hear the word ‘Latin cafe’ and they wouldn’t call us back.” Finally, she and partner Curtis Herrera found and opened a space on the corner of Westport Road and State Line in September 2019 – just six months before closing.
The pandemic has changed a lot of things, but fortunately it hasn’t dampened anyone’s enthusiasm for coffee. Café Corazon, which focuses on beans from Latin America and serves traditional Argentine yerba mate tea, has given Kansas City caffeine lovers plenty to impress.
Café Corazón has an extensive coffee menu peppered with Latin ingredients like horchata and atole (corn). Why offer yerba mate? For me, it was important to bring that because my dad was Argentinian, and there was gourd and straw (straw) in my house for me to drink from. It’s been part of our culture, and we want to let people know about it. Yerba mate is all about friends: You sit in a circle, take a pumpkin, pack it and pass it on. Covid has complicated that and now most people get their own rituals, but it’s a fun ritual and it’s very good for you. It’s full of antioxidants, vitamins, and almost as much caffeine as coffee, and it’s an anti-inflammatory. It’s a wormhole for sure, but people love it, and soon we’ll be giving yerba mate workshops.
Your Crossroads website has a breakfast and lunch menu. What is on it? We are withdrawing from our culture and from the Latinx experience. There are 22 countries in the world that speak Spanish, and there is no single way to become Latino. We don’t all share the same habits or food, so we try to make use of what we know best. Cortes’ parents are Mescalero Apache, from New Mexico and from Guadalajara. I was born in Taos to an immigrant father who came here from Buenos Aires. So we share an interesting mix. We have Argentine churipan, which is chorizo and pan [bread]So we make sausages with chimichurri, garlic aioli and pickled onions. There’s local wild rice and bison, a recipe developed by a friend who works at the Kansas City Indian Center. And the scrambled breakfast burrito is exactly what you’ll get in Taos. We use chili, beans, corn and zucchini – all very fresh Mexican.
Castagna-Herrera’s favorite places in KC
latte love “I love the way Hi Hat Coffee blends the flavors together. They have a great latte with almonds and a great flavor, and I appreciate the interest.”
Modern breakfast “Anything from Cafe Sebastian. Chef Rick Mullins loves Latin influences and often puts these little suggestions into his food. It’s not an overwhelmingly one thing.”
Polo or pasta? “For dinner, I love El Pollo Rey at KCK — Pollo asada is a god. But I also love Bella Neapolitan. I can’t help it: Argentina has Italian roots, and we love pasta.”
Midnight snack “Pan Caliente KC makes our baked goods and empanadas, and I’d like nothing better than to take home a box of empanadas and dulce de leche.”