In the 1990s, Francisco Camacho emigrated from Guerrero, Mexico, to the Mission and joined a Latino gay support group, where he met someone who would become a steadfast friend—a chef named Eduardo Antonio. Decades later, the two friends are reopening their LGBTQ+-centered Oaxacan street food kitchen called Café de Olla at 19th and Mission in March.
Named for the traditional spiced coffee, “de Olla” refers to a clay or metal pot that Mexican households use to combine coffee, molasses, cinnamon and other spices.
Café de Olla will move into the previous home of Bissap Baobab, Marco Senghor’s popular Senegalese restaurant and music venue.
The road to this brick-and-mortar eatery has been rocky for Camacho and Antonio. They originally opened in December 2019 a few blocks down Mission at Plaza Adelante, a complex that houses the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). Three months later, Covid forced the cafe’s closure, and when it reopened in the summer of 2020, Camacho and Antonio operated their business through a pick-up window. Three weeks ago, they finally closed the old location.
To make matters worse, Camacho said he regularly applied for Covid-19 relief grants but didn’t receive any aid until six months ago. A GoFundMe campaign has given Camacho and Antonio a bit of breathing room.
Still, Camacho said partly because of their strong Latinx customer base and regular foot traffic from MEDA workers, they weathered the past three years.
“It was very frustrating, but somehow we survived,” he said. “We get a lot of Latino gay young people who are discovering their roots, and we’re grateful for our loyal customers,” Camacho said.
Previously, Camacho ran Stable Café, a breakfast and lunch spot on Folsom before reconnecting with Antonio and deciding to go into business together in 2018.
The new space features a larger kitchen, which Antonio will use to expand the menu to include huevos rancheros, chilaquiles and other traditional breakfast dishes. The Oaxacan-born chef imports his cheese, chapulines, herbs and chocolate for mole from his home region. With a brand-new wine license, Camacho and Antonio are also cultivating a bottle list.
Of course, the cafe’s namesake spiced coffee will remain center stage, sourced from San Leandro’s Proyecto Diaz Coffee, which is owned and operated by Fernando Diaz—also a Oaxaca native.
Camacho told The Standard he’s hoping that in this bigger location, Café de Olla can continue to provide a safe place for LGBTQ+ Latinx diners in search of authentic Oaxacan fare.
“Our motto is ‘We welcome everyone,’” he said.
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