Café Kacao combines family recipes with global flavors for a fresh take on brunch

March 15, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is featured in OU Daily’s Best of Oklahoma guide, which will be available in print in early March. Check out other featured stories at the bottom of this article.

After opening in 2011, Café Kacao established itself as a popular Guatemalan and Latin fusion brunch spot in Oklahoma City. 

Veronica Zelada, founder and chef of , emigrated from Guatemala with her three children. She and her family first came to California, briefly returned to Guatemala and finally settled in Oklahoma City.

“The outlook didn’t look too bright,” Luidgi Del Cid, co-owner of Café Kacao and Zelada’s son, said. “(Zelada) became an entrepreneur and went through the journey of saving money to take her children back to the U.S. alone.”

She opened her first restaurant, Café Antigua, in 2004 where she served Guatemalan recipes passed down from her family. After three years, Zelada sold the restaurant and began working two jobs as a cook for both Olive Garden and The Cheesecake Factory. 

Cafe Kacao

The main dining area inside Cafe Kacao on Feb. 13.

“Those five years I stopped to think about my menu and kept doing better in my recipes and flavor,” Zelada said. “I went checking for brunch in Oklahoma and I saw a need.”

After Zelada gained more experience as a cook, she and Del Cid took a chance on Café Kacao. The two combined their knowledge from the service industry to determine the approach for their new restaurant.

Café Kacao’s menu began mainly with Guatemalan family recipes but adapted to fuse the meals with other global cuisines. Often, they pick popular regional dishes of Latin American countries and blend the components together.

“You’ll see different items (on the menu) like ‘vaca frita pupusas,’ which has Salvadorian, Cuban and French techniques. It’s four different countries in one plate,” Del Cid said. “Just like a mixologist blends different beverages, it’s the same with us.”

The menu is divided into brunch and lunch. The brunch menu features a selection of appetizers, omelets, specials and “recetas de mama,” or family recipes, whereas the lunch menu features entrees like smothered burritos and carne asada as well as sides and desserts.

Cafe Kacao

Behind the counter of Cafe Kacao on Feb. 13.

Café Kacao also offers a variety of coffee, cocktails and mocktails. The restaurant’s current featured cocktail is the “Fernando,” also known as “Fernet con Coca,” which consists of Coca-Cola and Fernet-Branca, an Italian herbal liqueur. 

Café Kacao sources its coffee from the Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, which ships its coffee beans to the restaurant within 48 hours of being roasted. In addition to serving conventional coffee, such as lattes and cold brew, the restaurant has its own unique takes.

“We started our coffee program very basic, but then our horchata latte (became) the number one selling drink on the menu,” Del Cid said. “We started putting our own spin on all these classic beverages using Latin American-inspired recipes.”

Coffee is important to Café Kacao, which is reflected in the restaurant’s name. Zelada and Del Cid said they wanted to represent their culture as a whole, so they chose to reference cacao beans, which is central not only to Guatemala’s economy, but all of Central and South America’s.

A focus of Café Kacao’s is giving back to the community and aiming to follow in the footsteps of other Latin American organizations. In the meantime, the restaurant continues to offer unique Latin American cuisine difficult to find elsewhere.

Carlos Barboza

An artist named Carlos Barboza completes a commissioned mural for Cafe Kacao on Feb. 13. 

The northern exterior wall of Café Kacao features a freshly painted mural of a quetzal, the national bird and symbol of Guatemala, by artist Carlos Barboza. The colorful bird is at the center of the country’s flag and the name of Guatemala’s currency.

“When you come to eat here at Café Kacao, you kind of step away from Oklahoma City and you’re in this little bubble somewhere in Central America,” Del Cid said. 

Café Kacao, at 3325 N. Classen Blvd., is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday brunch is offered from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This story was edited by Shelby Emery and Emma Blakley. Zoe De Leon, Avery Avery and Mary Ann Livingood copy edited this story.

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