PORTAGE PARK — When Luz Hoyos moved to Portage Park eight years ago, she bought a building she hoped would one day be home to her dream: a Colombian cafe.
Then, the business that had occupied the ground floor of the building at 4315 N. Central Ave. closed in 2018. It was a sign Hoyos’ dream could move in, she said.
After a lengthy process that began just as the pandemic hit, with delays in construction and licensing from the city, Hoyos opened Pintaito Gourmet earlier this month in the space.
Pintaito Gourmet sells Colombian coffee, sodas, iced tea and other traditional drinks. Its menu features Colombian empanadas, arepas and hot dogs with pineapple sauce.
“Colombia is known as one of the top three places for the best coffee, so I wanted to add something [to the neighborhood] that gave the name of Colombia,” said Hoyos, who is from Colombia. “We have a beautiful country, beautiful people and great things like coffee.”
The owner, who is also a real estate broker, wants to bring her country’s beauty and culture to the Far Northwest Side and show the community Colombia is more than the negative news people may read.
The cafe has minimal seating inside, but it has a large patio that is being transformed into the “ambience of Colombia,” Hoyos said. A mural by an 87-year-old artist that shows the colorful “pueblos” of the mountainous country is in progress on the back patio wall, and fake orange windows will be installed.
Inside the cafe are pueblo dioramas with cultural details, including musical instruments, woven baskets and ceramic cups, plants and flowers and religious objects. More decorations — like outdoor lights and indoor artwork by local Colombian artists — will be added soon, Hoyos said.
Pintaito means “painted” in Spanish. It’s an apt name for the cafe, which will have walls painted in light greens, blues, yellows and reds once done.
The cafe’s Colombian food is being made by Hoyos’ friend, chef Carlos Rego. He has been cooking his country’s food for 40 years and has lived in Chicago for 20 years. His arepas and corn empanadas, which come in meat and vegetarian options, are made fresh every day.
“It feels good to cook my food for the community so people can have a new business in the neighborhood,” Rego said in Spanish.
The team plans to add sandwiches and Colombian pastries to the menu soon, Rego said.
Hoyos had a soft opening earlier this month and has received positive messages and daily visitors from neighboring business employees and residents.
“People have responded well already,” she said. “They love to help the small business community. I am very touched about it.”
Sophie McNeill, who lives a few blocks away from the cafe and manages the Portage Park farmers market, is excited for another business to join the North Central Avenue corridor.
“There is a lot of potential there, and coffee is a definite need,” McNeill said.
Pintaito Gourmet will have a grand opening when the mural and artwork are completed. It’s open for dine-in and takeout 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Sunday.
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