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Maricela Tellez and her husband have three Mexican eateries in South Philly. Photo: Café y Chocolate.
Maricela Tellez and her husband have three Mexican eateries in South Philly. Photo: Café y Chocolate.

Café y Chocolate, the local eatery serving Oaxacan culture through its drinks and more

The spot at 1532 Snyder Ave, is the first of three food establishments owned and operated by Maricela Tellez

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Oaxacan food culture is visibly one of the most distinct and historical in gastronomy that was created and perfected Indigenous people over hundreds of years in Southern Mexico.

Cheese, mezcal, mole, and chocolate are just a few of the staples that Oaxaca is known for. The tangy, spicy, and flavorful ingredients is what takes the cuisine to the next level and makes it a worldwide phenomenon.

One woman bringing that culture to South Philadelphia is Maricela Tellez, the owner of Café y Chocolate.

Tellez is not a newcomer to the restaurant business and also owns two other businesses in South Philly, La Mula Terca, and La Llorona, that bring their own, unique and satisfying dishes to locals.

In the end, they are at the heart of what Tellez does at each spot, including Café y Chocolate.

“I have customers that come over all of the time, and to me, they are my family, they have been so supportive of us,” she said in a recent interview with AL DIA News.

Tellez was first introduced to cooking when she was a little girl working at her uncle’s restaurant in Puebla, Mexico.

It was there, she learned how to make mole, salsa verde, and other sauces that represented her culture.

When she came to the United States almost 15 years ago, she worked at an Italian restaurant, where she also got exposure and learned how to make dishes that were unfamiliar to her. 

Her first restaurant, Café y Chocolate, was a dream for Tellez and her husband, who opened up as soon as they had the opportunity.

But like most businesses in 2020, she admitted that last year was one of the biggest hardships she had ever traversed.

As multiple small businesses across the city were closing down, she feared that her restaurant would be next.

“We applied for grants from the government, but unfortunately we did not get any help,” said Tellez.

It’s a similar story to many Latino-owned businesses across Philadelphia, that weren’t given any loans and grants provided amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the lack of government support, all three of Tellez’s businesses were able to stay strong and remain a force in the shaken, but busy Philly food scene.

Café y Chocolate is known for its authentic chocolate Oaxaca, created by using a Mexican chocolate brand, while also adding different spices — one of the most notable, being cinnamon

Another favorite is their cafe con chocolate.

“We put two shots of espresso, Mexican chocolate, and top it with whipped cream and cinnamon,” said Tellez.

People also stop by for their famous brunch specials, like their chilaquiles, a hearty and generous serving that consists of homemade tortilla chips covered in salsa verde, salsa roja, or mole topped with sour cream and queso fresco alongside black beans and rice.

“We also have molletes that are also popular,” she said.

Their molletes are made with a long, buttered, and toasted Portuguese roll layered with refried black beans and melted Chihuahua cheese and topped with queso fresco and a side of pico de gallo.

Beyond drinks and brunch, Tellez’s spot is also known for its homemade desserts such as tres leches, flan de leche, and plantains with cream, which is made by frying sweet plantains and topping it with queso fresco and sour cream.

Check out their impressive menu and support a Latino-owned business.

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