Café La Taza has been around for 18 years, since 1998, owned and operated by the Martinez family, originally from Nicaragua. They started out, however, as Martha & Brothers, and a few years in, part of the family left and went on to found the coffee roasting house that is known as Martha & Brothers Coffee, and of course that’s where Taza still gets its brew. Taza started out as a mere coffee shop, selling pastries, bagels, fresh juices, salads, sandwiches, etc. But over the last 10 years or so they’ve flourished to the point where they’re now a full-on restaurant – with a full bar! They remodeled, adding a more modern décor, and got a liquor license in December of 2015. And they even have a second location on Post. I see people in the original Taza at all hours of the day, and it makes me happy to know such old-timers are thriving and growing in our little neighborhood.
Their menu now offers full breakfast, lunch and dinner, with an oyster happy hour and a full espresso bar. The front half of the restaurant is more café-like, where you can still get items to go at the counter, especially at breakfast, and the back half being a little more subdued.
On our first visit, I was most excited by their cocktail list, but unfortunately I didn’t like the one I ordered – Don Pepe: tequila, citrus, cucumber and thyme. It really needed a tart note, something to contrast, as it was all pretty one-note. There are other cocktails I’d try, though. The BF ordered a Stella Artois, and was quite pleased that it even came in a chilled Stella glass.
The online menu is a bit deceptive; there are a lot more more choices when you get there! For one thing, we were pleased to find they have four different ceviches: ceviche de camarones (shrimp) with mango; ceviche mixto, comprised of calamari, scallops and shrimp, and here, with passion fruit juice; ala diabla, same, but with a bit of chipotle; and el clasico, which comes with halibut, calamari and shrimp. We ordered the classic, which was served with a dollop of sweet potato puree, cancha (toasted large Peruvian corn) and hominy.
Tortilla chips were the scooping mechanism, and the halibut was super fresh. I would have liked a bit more heat, but nothing that a little Tabasco couldn’t help. The only other problem we had is that the ceviche came out after our entrees. All the food comes out very fast, but nothing tastes like it’s been sitting around.
The BF ordered the Churrasco – a grilled marinated skirt steak with guajillo and chimichurri sauces, served with a salad and fries.
Their chimichurri is different than any other I’ve had – very fresh and bright. We found out that they make it with – surprisingly – mint & basil, which is very atypical, a little cilantro, parsley, and dried oregano. Our server confided to us that an Argentinian had once told him you must make chimichurri with dried oregano, always! A tip to remember, as it was very good. The guajillo (a dried red pepper) sauce had notes of cinnamon and clove, with a little bit of a tartness to it. It, too, was very good on the steak. And as for that steak? The BF finally ordered well! The meat was tender, juicy, cooked perfectly – just great. His fries were excellent too – crispy, hot, and generously sprinkled with chopped fresh herbs.
For my main I ordered the mussels, chorizo and fries…
The “fries” turned out to be a shower of crispy shoestring potatoes over the top, more like a garnish, but that’s all that was needed, as the dish also came with three slices of toasted bread to sop up the wonderful juices. The sausage in the dish is proprietary – they grind their own pork and add their own spicing. Our server said they make just about all their food in-house, not pre-prepped from elsewhere. The broth was good and saffron-y, and I slurped my way through the entire bowl.
The BF said he could see this easily becoming a regular place for us – so reasonably priced, the service was warm and friendly, a good variety of dishes, and a full bar! And, for those to whom that sort of thing matters, a t.v. in each of the dining areas, for sporting events.
On our second visit, I ordered a delicious Argentinian cabernet sauvignon – Catalpa – they have a small but decent wine list with selections from Portugal, Spain, Argentina and California.
We ordered another ceviche (and again, it came out after our entrees!) – the ceviche ala diabla this time, with shrimp, bay scallops, and squid, in a chipotle lime “leche” (leche de tigre is what Peruvians call the limey juice that comes from marinating seafood and chiles together.) We preferred the clasico to this one, but it was still a good, fresh start to a meal – if only they’d bring it out earlier!
We ordered a side of yuca fries to share…
… and they turned out to be some of the best we’ve had. They were super crispy, really fluffy inside, not at all dense, and served with a garlicky rocoto aioli. These would make a great bar snack.
For my main, I ordered the pork sliders.
These were lovely, but I made the mistake of tasting the BF’s chilaquiles first, which were to die for, and the pork in his dish was so delicious that mine suffered in comparison. The sliders came with some tart pickled onions, and were better once I added some aioli. But…
… oh those chilaquiles…
Their enchilada roja sauce was so good, and the pork was so tender and flavorful, that this dish was the clear winner of the night. The tortilla chips were the perfect texture – still slightly chewy in places, wonderfully mushy in others, with a drizzle of crema and sprinkles of cotija cheese…. Divine. The only thing the BF forgot was that you can also order it with an egg, even at dinner, which would have made them that much better. These inspired us to go home and make our own chilaquiles, but I’d have Taza’s again in a heartbeat. I kept eating off his plate until I was too full to eat my last two sliders.
Ok, and I couldn’t help myself, I had to find out. I got up early one morning before work and went in for breakfast alone….
Now, what I REALLY wanted was the pork loin eggs benedict, because PORK & EGGS BENEDICT. But it turns out that and the other Bennie, Eggs Florentine, are only offered on the weekends. Wah… however, this corned beef hash and eggs did not disappoint in the slightest. In fact, I’d venture to say it was the best corned beef I’ve ever had. Really tender, not too fatty but just fatty enough, delicious! Those potatoes were actually parsnips, and so incredibly buttery and creamy, and the bites of fresh celery I got, with the sweet roasted carrot, and the peppery watercress, just made this dish extra special. It comes with two eggs, but I downsized to one as I knew it was going to be too much food. On top is what they’re calling garlic toast, and it was ok, but I only had a couple bites as, again, just way too much. I ended up not eating lunch. Really, this breakfast was as good as any I’ve had at any fancy brunch place.
Other menu items include lemon roasted chicken, filet mignon, lomo saltado (a typical Peruvian dish), a coffee-rubbed pork chop which sounds amazing, salads, shrimp cocktails, crab cakes, pancakes, sausage and eggs, hot cereal, French toast, etc.
This is very much a neighborhood place, with locals and workers dropping in throughout the day. They’re not open very late, but maybe if they attract more business from the full bar, they’ll stay open later. I think some people walk by and think Taza is simply a café, which is a huge mistake; there is so much more going on here.
2475 Mission Street
Mon-Thur 6am-8pm / Fri 6am-9pm/ Sat 6:30am-9pm / Sun 7am-3:00pm