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El Almacen was once only a yerba mate cafe with an excellent atmosphere, but now they serve Mexican brunch every day of the week.
The cafe starts out wide with big windows at the front and larger tables, and narrows towards the back.
This makes it an ideal cafe for working solo, or having an intimate cuppa with a friend, though there are tables at the front reserved for groups larger than three.
Not only are they known for their authentic yerba mate, but the gleaming custom espresso machine that towers over the shop, where owner Silvio Rodriguez pours out tiny intricate cortados into wee glass cups.
They’re $3 - $3.50, and any drink can be iced for a 25- or 50-cent upcharge. Cortados are always served with a little glass of sparkling water to balance out the coffee’s bitterness.
Yerba mate is a highly ceremonial drink, containing the same active ingredient as Red Bull. Rodriguez assists by dosing out dried mate herb and pouring hot water onto the lip of the wooden vessel, not directly on the leaves.
Sticking the straw in, cover the tip so it doesn’t fill up with gritty herb, and don’t stir or pull the straw out either. It’s common to share the straw for this potent, woody, pungently herbacious drink too, so if you want true authenticity cast germaphobia aside.
Bacon and plantain ($12.50) is actually pork belly with thick, dense, syrupy slabs of plantain, the word bacon just sells better. Rich fatty belly combines so well with the creamy fried egg on top and sweet plantain, and the sticky agave sauce that coats the plate is insane. It’s finished with a little queso fresco and pico de gallo.
Chilaquiles ($8.50) drench tortilla chips in red sauce and top them with two fried eggs, served with frijoles, cheese and pico de gallo.
Chorizo benedicto ($14) is only available weekends. Sopes (Mexican corn cakes) replace English muffins, pork chorizo replaces ham, and a bit of spice is in the hollandaise, and the effect is extraordinary. It’s served with potatoes perfect for soaking up sauces, frijoles and pico de gallo.
The cafe is small, but they actually clear an area every second and fourth Sunday for tango starting at 4 p.m. to raise money for local charities. Rodriguez tells me there’s a saying that if you can dance tango, you can dance on a tile.
Laptops are definitely acceptable here, and even on a weekday you’ll probably have to get in early to snag one of the comfy wooden chairs in here. High-ceilinged, bright, and with plenty of artwork and character, this is an ideal work, study or chill brunch environment.