Restaurant Review: Maria’s Café Serves Up a Slice of Latin Love

Luís Escobar, online publishing coordinator

Photo of raspberry pancake from Maria’s Café taken by Jarrod Haus on Sept. 9

It’s not often that you find a restaurant that really makes you feel happy after eating. With an atmosphere that touches the definition of home, a culture that is focused on bringing community together and food that is so clearly made with love, Maria’s Cafe provides all these and more.

Maria’s Café is a Columbian restaurant located in Ventura Village on Franklin Avenue. It was established in 1980 by María Hoyos, who previously worked at a separate restaurant in South Minneapolis. Hoyos made a Breakfast Club, which then evolved into the café that we know and love today. Today, Maria’s Café is a cornerstone of South Minneapolis, residing in the Ancient Traders Market. 

When entering Maria’s Café, it’s a bit of a maze as you have to enter through a different building. Once you are at the door, servers take no time to find you a seat and make you feel comfortable. Not long after we were seated, immediately the servers provided water and offered some of the best black coffee I’ve had. The servers were kind, allowing you to take your time ordering and double checking if our orders were correct. Between waiting for our server and our food, a local musician named Erick Biard was playing Latin acoustic rhythms and music. 

If I’m being honest, the wait time between ordering and receiving our food was a bit noticeable. Although this is anything but a criticism of preparing food in a timely manner because once it was served, my friends and I were already so engrossed with the presentation that we couldn’t be annoyed. The portions were more than justified for the price. In Latin American culture, we often emphasize that everyone not only just eats but is full and happy with their meal, and Maria’s offers that genuine Latinx love. 

I had ordered Pablo’s omelet with two large strawberry pancakes to accompany it. The omelet is not the traditional American omelet, as it’s filled with rice, refried beans, onion, cheddar and tomato. On the side, it’s served with a tortilla and salsa made from red chilés. Taking a bite from the omelet, I was flooded with memories of my childhood. All these staple foods of growing up Latin American were infused harmoniously. It was probably the first time I felt emotional eating something with eggs in it. 

Photo of omelet from Maria’s Café taken by Luís Escobar on Sept. 9

My friend J’Mariyoun Jordan, or “JJ,” had ordered Juan’s breakfast sandwich, which consisted of egg, cheddar and sausage all sandwiched between a croissant. Within minutes, he had made his way through the sandwich before I could even ask for his thoughts on it! “It’s a comforting meal, something that makes you feel safe, y’know?” he said. 

Another friend of mine, Alexis Rojas, ordered Maria’s special quesadilla which was filled with green peppers and chicken. “This pushes the limit of a traditional quesadilla. You taste everything at once with each bite,” Rojas said when asked about his experience with the dish. He had also tried a couple bites of the sandwich JJ ordered and almost finished it for him. He was in awe at the care, the punchy flavor of each bite. It was a paradigm shift for him in the world of breakfast sandwiches, and he ended up ordering the same sandwich for later in the day. 

Jarrod Haus had ordered the veggie sausages with a side of pineapple and raspberry pancakes. Both were light, fluffy, and absolutely bursting with their respective flavors without overwhelming the senses. Both JJ and Alexis enjoyed their experience so much that they went back the next week after our visit for another taste of all of the amazing food that Maria’s has to offer.

Franklin Avenue is not as popular as Nicollet Avenue or Uptown, but it has its own jewels and this is definitely one of them. After the amazing experience at Maria’s Café, I cannot recommend it enough. Located at 1113 E Franklin Ave, you should definitely stop in because they make you feel like you’re home.