Lynchburg’s First Latin Café
Recently opened El Mariachi Café and the adjacent El Mariachi Restaurant provide downtown Lynchburg residents with a taste of Latin American culture through stellar beverage offerings as well as authentic Latin cuisine.
For cousins and El Mariachi owners Daniel Sanchez and L.J. Pumagualle, the restaurant business has been a longtime family affair. The duo’s family opened its first El Mariachi restaurant in 2008 in Amherst County before starting a second 10 years later in Lovingston, Virginia. In August, Sanchez and Pumagualle decided to open a branch of their own, but this time with the addition of a café.
El Mariachi Café, the first Latin American café in Lynchburg as well as the first café for the El Mariachi brand, offers a robust selection of caffeinated beverages and desserts to customers.
“We live in a diverse world, so it’s nice to have something for each area,” said Pumagualle, who is Ecuadorian. “Lynchburg didn’t have a Latin café, so we are pushing Honduran coffee, Guatemalan coffee, we want to start pushing Ecuadorian coffee, and Mexican bread and food. The Latin style is very important to me because you can do so much with it.”
While the restaurant provides patrons with a wide selection of lunch and dinner items, as well as a fully stocked bar, the café provides a more laid-back atmosphere for customers as well as includes breakfast options that aren’t available at the restaurant. It also offers specialty drinks that combine coffee with staple Latin favorites such as “horchatte” (horchata and latte combination) and a churro affogato.
Through these offerings, the business looks to share its passion for Latin culture with residents of Central Virginia as well as anyone else passing through the area.
“I’m Mexican and I’ve kind of been disconnected from my heritage for a lot of different reasons, but this has been a way for me to connect back with my heritage through something I love, which is coffee,” manager Jeremy Angione said. “Not only are you getting the influence through the food and the aesthetics, but you’re also getting it through the people.”
As the café begins to grow and find its niche in the downtown scene, it will continue to evolve as it seeks to best serve its customers. Yet, its focus on authentic Latin cuisine will not change.
“We’re a people with a rich heritage that we like to pull from, with fresh ingredients,” Angione said. “We want to be seen as something more than just a theme or a character in a restaurant. We want to be seen as a people with a rich and diverse culture that we want to share with the people of Lynchburg and Virginia overall.”
El Mariachi Café and El Mariachi Restaurant are located at 1001 Jefferson St., Lynchburg, VA, and customers can also visit the business’ website at www.elmariachimexfood.com.