TLO Restaurant Review: Café Antigua

When I attended Classen School of Advanced Studies some 20-odd years ago, for most breakfasts (and some lunches) we would typically sneak off campus as soon as the bus dropped us off, spending a few bucks at the Braum’s right up the street; we probably ate way too many useless breakfast sandwiches, but, to be fair, it was the only restaurant open within walking distance that allowed us to order and be back in time for first period.

Having recently been to Café Antigua, 1903 N. Classen Blvd, however, I wonder if our then-nubile teenage hunger-pangs would have accepted their Guatemalan cuisine on a semi-regular basis if it was around back then; as I sat there in their spacious digs, I truly think that it would’ve been a more than acceptable substitute, especially at a school where pretension of all disciplines reigned supreme.

Café Antigua surprisingly started my meal off with a large-ish cup of complimentary Guatemalan sopa de pollo, loaded with generous cuts of chicken as well as strands of fideo and chunks of vegetables; gently spooning the warm brew to my lips, it was a welcoming surprise that was unexpected. (At least to me it was unexpected.)

Before I could even look at a menu for lunch, the brewed coffee from the front of house as we walked in gave off such an intoxicating aroma, that I had to order a Vaca Negra ($4.00), made up of cane sugar Coca-Cola, vanilla ice cream and espresso; Braum’s would never serve this, I thought as I gently worked a small bit of ice cream into a gentle sip, the Coke and espresso mixing enchantingly.

While their otherworldly Enchiladas Guatemaltecas, with the purple and pink flourishes, looked appropriately photogenic, they would have to wait for another time; I was told by a Guatemalan pal that Antigua served one of the best plates of Machaca ($10.99), a traditional breakfast dish, in the whole maldito city.

I couldn’t pass it up, so I ordered that, along with a roomy appetizer that goes by the name of the Trio ($5.99), apparently a triple threat of dips and sauces that comes along with a small plate of homemade tortilla chips as well.

With an educational mixture of travelogue photos and oversized murals on the walls, Antigua is far less intimidating and, obviously, less popular than it’s primo besándose, Café Kacao; here at Antigua though, I felt more at home in the sombra of my former school, filled with former teachers and former lovers, hopefully none of whom would walk in while I was here.

This hot take was amplified loudly when our server brought the far-bigger-than-expected Trio appetizer to the table. Pleasantly loaded with the aforementioned chips as well as black refried beans topped with feta cheese, the tomato-based chirmol sauce and a spicy brownish salsa, it was a supposedly light snack that presented a rich mixture of flavors, especially with the deeply única chirmol, a Guatemalan specialty that managed to make tomato sauce into an edible dip once again.

But what I really came here for was the sensually devious Machaca, a time-honored breakfast of campeones that consisted of two scrambled eggs and lean shredded beef, mixed furiously with onions, tomatoes and long-sliced jalapenos. Along with the topped-off fried potatoes and, once again, the choice refried black beans, at that moment of oral conception as the fork full of Machaca entered my waiting mouth, I firmly believed—and still do—that this was the mejor desayuno along Classen Blvd.

One of the most damnable decisions in Latin cooking, however, was to turn the healthy-enough plantain into a wholly irresistible dessert that I couldn’t ignore any longer; one of the true staples of Guatemalan eats, I made a late-order of, what else, Fried Plantains ($3.50). And as rich as these bites were, instead of the typical whip cream that is usually paired with these, Antigua wisely uses warm sour cream. Even though they were closing soon, I took my time and enjoyed the Hell out of them. Cómpralo ya!

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