Step into Barranquero Café on any given afternoon and you’re likely to find a handful of grad students or young professionals making themselves comfortable in the somewhat small, but cozy, space. With two floors of eclectic decor and seating, the café exudes a hip feel that could be seen in any metropolis in the country, yet has somehow found its way to downtown State College.
Still in its infancy, Barranquero got its official start in April, but its origins go back further, to 2010, when one of the co-owners, Gerry Kistler, moved to Colombia. After experiencing what he considered the best coffee of his life at Café Jesús Martín, he was inspired to open his own coffee shop in his hometown. He asked his niece, Susan Jermusyk, to join him on the adventure.
What started out as coffee, “pan de queso” and empanadas has expanded to an extensive collection of specialty beverages and Colombian foods. Much of the menu changes have been brought about by Milena Zamora, the café’s kitchen manager, who hails from Bogotà and has either created or adapted most of the dishes found on the menu.
The best-selling item is the empanadas, and it’s easy to see why. The perfectly proportioned bite of beef, chicken, pork or a black bean mixture (which is one of the café’s vegan options) is served alongside a lime wedge and a small bowl of ají (a mild salsa-esque sauce that’s altogether addictive). At $2.25 for each or three for $6, the price is certainly a steal for either the hungry college student or the gourmand on a budget. It’s also a fantastic introduction to the world of Latin American cuisine.
The newest addition to the menu is the selection of sweet and savory “pastels.” The flaky pastry-like dough gives way to fillings of your choice, whether you’re craving spinach, mushrooms, feta and mozzarella or a more decadent mixture of guava and arequipe, the Colombian version of dulce de leche. Jermusyk admits this is her current guilty pleasure on the menu.
“Right now my favorite item is the new blackberry pastel. It is puff pastry filled with blackberry jam, mozzarella cheese and arequipe,” she said. “I love pretty much anything with arequipe. I can’t get enough of it.”
With all of this amazing Latin American food at your disposal, don’t forget to try out the café’s heart and soul — the coffee. For those new to the Latin American food scene, Jermusyk recommends the pour over option, which is made to order and results in a smooth, more palatable cup.
In addition to your typical favorites — lattes, espressos, cappuccinos and more — you’ll also find a selection of cold brew coffee options. The growing trend is most popular in the summer, and comes in three flavors: bourbon, honey and natural.
For those not quite looking for a caffeine buzz, the menu also offers up hot chocolate, teas and aromáticas, a potent fruit tea that’s both refreshing and healthful. The Green Fruit Infusion blend is served hot or cold, and mixes the flavors of pineapple, green apple, ginger and mint. Beyond being the perfect remedy for a dreary winter day, it’s also an uplifting drink option when you feel a few sniffles coming on.
Since Barranquero’s opening, it remains one of the only places to serve Latin American food in the area, and Jermusyk says the community has responded with enthusiasm.
“In general, people have been very supportive of our new business and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback. The Latin American community in State College has also been very supportive of us,” she said. “We definitely attract coffee lovers, but also anyone with a love for Latin American food.”
“We have grown so much as a company and have become a favorite spot of so many people already,” she said. “It’s really humbling to think about how far we’ve come from where we started. I remember when Barranquero was just a dream on a napkin and I am just so thankful to everyone that has helped along the way.”
For those stopping by soon, be sure to check out the winter specialties before they’re gone. Right now, guests can try the candy cane latte, gingerbread hot chocolate, canelazo (a cinnamon-infused, traditional Andean winter drink) and gingerbread toffee muffins. Additionally, keep an eye out for upcoming events at Barranquero, as it prepares for its one-year anniversary celebration.
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
What: Barranquero Café
Where: 324 E. Calder Way, State College