Mexican entrepreneur offers two distinct culinary experiences in South Philly
Arturo Lorenzo owns and operates two eateries across the street from each other along Snyder Avenue: La Mula Terca and Café y Chocolate.
“I’m not one to make plans,” laughed Arturo Lorenzo, owner and operator of Café y Chocolate and La Mula Terca in South Philly.
For the past six years, Lorenzo has run the small, Mexican café, Café y Chocolate, along Snyder Avenue serving what he describes as “a small piece of Mexico.” Options include the Mexican classic chilaquiles as well as a variety of scrambled egg dishes for brunch. Across the street stands his other restaurant, La Mula Terca, which by contrast is a modern, contemporary dinner destination that serves a variety of Latin American and Mediterranean cuisine.
Lorenzo’s operation of both occurred by chance. He had no intention of being a restaurant owner. Prior to opening Café y Chocolate in 2012 he had only cooked in his own kitchen.
“Nos tiramos al rio (we threw ourselves to the river),” Lorenzo smiled.
The opportunity presented itself in November of 2011 when his girlfriend, Maricela Tellez, was working at the café (which at the time was a Japanese-Mexican mix) and learned that the owners were planning to close the business.
“I had no idea how to run a restaurant,” explained Lorenzo. “At the beginning I was thinking ‘what was I doing here?’ I didn't see a future.”
Prior to running the café, Lorenzo spent years working in landscaping in New Jersey. He held the position of manager and led teams making patios – a skill that has served him well in designing the verdant exterior of Café y Chocolate.
Originally from Puebla, Lorenzo grew up in Mexico City. When he came to the U.S., he arrived in Bridgetown, NJ looking for opportunity.
“The United States is a process that takes time. It’s a new animal to confront,” said Lorenzo.
He’s worked in everything from cutting Christmas trees in Michigan to cement construction in Colorado to handling recycling in New Jersey. For Lorenzo, it’s about making the most of the situation and doing a good job.
“I’ve always said I’m hungry. When I have the chance to work I give it my all. It’s like the American’s say, ‘if you wanna do it then do it right.’”
By many accounts, doing it right is exactly what Lorenzo has done at both Café y Chocolate and La Mula Terca. Both have received consistent ratings of 4 and a half and 5 stars on Yelp with a total of over 300 reviews.
“The richest thing of all this is the complete diversity of people who come to the restaurants,” explained Lorenzo. “We have white people, Colombians, Mexicans, Argentineans, Guatemalans. We don't see colors here. We see people eating.”
The company’s success has also been important for their exclusively Mexican staff that has found a reliable place of employment.
“We [immigrants] want to have a better life. It’s hard,” said Lorenzo. “We work hard so that people see that we aren’t here to live off welfare. We are here to work and live off what we produce, what we deserve.”
Hours: Monday – Saturday 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.. Address: 2100 S. Norwood St. Philadelphia, PA 19145 Prices: under $10.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Address: 2053 S. Beechwood St. Philadelphia, PA. Prices: $8 - $24.