Cafe de Martin: a taste of Peruvian food, drinks

by Tallahassee Table
Restaurant adds El Bar, with pisco sours and occasional live music

My husband and I have been fans of Cafe de Martin‘s Peruvian food since the cozy restaurant opened in October of ‘21. The cafe, co-owned by chef Martín Araujo Bohorquez and Tallahassee financial advisor Gary Parsons, has been enhancing its menu and setting ever since but now there’s a new reason to check out the cafe: El Bar.

Bartender Anthony concocts a repertoire of cocktails at Cafe de Martin’s El Bar.

The bar opened in February but this was our first chance to try it out – even better, we celebrated our friend’s birthday with pisco sours, sangria and authentic Peruvian fare.

The decor evokes the Peruvian culture.

The bar jives perfectly with the restaurant, which features Peruvian art that Martin brought back from South America as well as pom poms and tassels that add splashes of color and add a touch of the Peruvian culture.

The Pisco Sour is Peru’s national drink.

Peru’s traditional pisco sour is the star. Our friend said her drink was “perfectly balanced, with just the right amount of frothy egg white and a dash of heat. Perfect summer beverage.”

Gary stopped by our table and talked about the history of Peru’s national drink, a cousin to the whiskey sour, made with a clear grape brandy.

El Bar serves variations on the pisco sour as well as other cocktails including the Negroni, caprina, the old fashioned, Manhattans and Moscow Mule, among others, plus beer and wine. We were happy to find Ology Brewing Company’s Sensory Overload IPA on the list of brews.

The food at Cafe de Martin, Tallahassee’s only brick and mortar Peruvian restaurant, was fantastic.

Called the original fusion food, Peruvian cooking dates back to the Incas, was influenced by the arrival of Spanish conquerors and still later Chinese, African, European and Japanese immigrants to the South American country. You’ll see those influences reflected in dishes with ingredients such as fried rice or spaghetti.

Cafe de Martin has added some new menu items, including vegetable spring rolls, which were deliciously crisp, served with a salad and lots of diced tomatoes with a refreshing dressing.

Causas are one of the essential dishes on Cafe de Martin’s menu.

Three of my other favorite dishes are causas – a layered stack of yellow potatoes with avocado and filling (shrimp, ceviche or chicken), ceviche, raw fish “cooked” by citrusy juices and papas en salsa huancaina (sliced boiled potatoes in a creamy, spicy cheese sauce).

Lomo saltado, above, is one of the Peruvian classics on the menu.

For our entrees, we ordered our classic favorites: homey lomo saltado, a stir-fry with sauteed red peppers, onions and beef (or chicken) served with rice and French fries. And soul-satisfying aji de gallino – chicken in a creamy sauce made with ají amarillo chile peppers.

My husband raved about his dish, chicharrón de pescado – chicharrón is Spanish for fried pork skins but Peruvian cooks make this dish with pieces of light, crisp fried fish.

Chicharrón de pescado brings pieces of light, crisp fried fish.

For dessert, we had carrot cake and our friends shared the tres leche cake – topped with a few candles, accompanied by the bartender and a few servers singing Happy Birthday!

For something a bit more sophisticated, El Bar often features live music – Karlen performs from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 23rd. If you prefer to sit outside, there’s a lovely bar area.

You’ll be hooked on this sweet oasis of Peruvian food, drink and culture.

If you go …

Cafe de Martin is in the Espositos shopping center at 2743 Capital Circle NE; 850-900-5929.

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