The act of sharing a simple meal is a powerful means of connection that continues to bring families together no matter how busy the outside world may seem. For Manuel Guerra, creating unique crepes and specialty coffee at Calexico’s Hope Café is a way of keeping his grandmother’s memory alive.
“My grandmother, Hope Guerra, passed away 19 years ago and this place is something for her,” he said of the establishment at 605 E. Second St.
Guerra recalled learning to cook from his grandmother at an early age.
“My grandmother used to make crepes and kid’s coffee for all of her grandkids,” he said. “All the sweet and savory crepes on the menu are her recipes. I like to mix it up from time to time and make new types of crepes that she would like.”
Entering the café feels like walking into a grandmother’s house because Guerra used many pieces of his grandmother’s furniture to decorate.
The eclectic experience does not end with the visual, and extends into the overall ambience. Hope Café offers a greater variety of potential experiences than the typical coffee house. It has several rooms decorated to create different themes such as the Hope Room, Hollywood Room and the Paris Room.
Ruben Felix took his wife to Hope Café to celebrate their anniversary. The couple chose to sit in the Marvel Comic Room. It was his first time dinning at the establishment.
“This is something different. Even though the different dining rooms here are incredible, my favorite thing is the food. I had crepes,” Felix said.
Erica Sherlan and Zebidiah Olen sat in the Paris Room for lunch. Lights hung low in the romantically decorated room adorned with pictures of iconic Parisian landmarks on every wall.
Sherlan said, “My favorite thing about this place is the environment and of course the coffee. It is a chill place.”
Sherlan is also a big fan of the food at Hope Café and noted, “I don’t have a favorite crepe because I like them all. Today I had a crepe made with mole. The Hope Crepe is also really good.”
The nightlife in Calexico is typically quiet, explained Guerra, but not at Hope Café.
“We are open until 10 p.m. throughout the week and until 11p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It is the most crowded time at the café,” he explained.
Guerra spoke of how much the scene changes in his establishment throughout the day.
“In the morning the café is filled with teachers and people coming to get their lunch. At night, it is filled with couples and groups of friends and all that,” he said.
Hanging in a corner near the cash register sits an iconic painting of Guerra, his grandmother and famed Mexican painter Frieda Kahlo. An employee commissioned the painting as a gift for the café owner when the restaurant first opened.
Guerra explained that Kahlo was an inspiration to both he and his grandmother.
Hope Guerra’s old fountain sits outside the café. Her Grandson shared a very personal story about the day she passed away.
“My mom was sitting down outside by the fountain, and a hummingbird came and sat on the table next to her and didn’t move,” he recalled.
Guerra said his grandmother loved hummingbirds and his mother instantly saw this as a sign.
“My mom called me and when I arrived the hummingbird flew up and sat on my shoulder,” Guerra said.
The tiny bird waited with the mother and son for hours as they called other family members to the scene of what they feel was a miracle.
“The bird just sat on the table in the middle of my whole family. For us, we knew that was my grandmother just visiting us. We all got tattoos of a hummingbird on our arm to remember my grandmother,” he said.
This incident inspired Guerra to open the Café. When coming up with names, everyone in the family agreed they should name the restaurant in memory of their beloved grandmother, Hope.
The café will celebrate its fourth year anniversary this Halloween and will offer specials throughout the week. Find out more about Hope Café on their Facebook page and by stopping in for crepes and coffee.