Café Miami, 4517 State Road, which Yelpers
have deemed a "best kept secret" and neighborhood "gem," is back in business with a new owner after having been closed since January. The path that brought Mariela Paz to Cleveland, however, was anything but linear in both a professional and geographic sense.
Less than two years ago, Paz was the head graphic designer for a silkscreening company in Miami. Prior to immigrating to the United States in 2001, she was a marketing manager for a bank, television channel and real estate development firm in Honduras.
"I have a bachelor's degree in media and advertising," notes Paz.
But in fall of 2013, she was looking for a change and decided to come to Cleveland, which her sister and mother call home.
"Why not?" recalls Paz of her response when her family urged her to move. The change seemed uncomplicated. "I just had my dog and two love birds." She had also been to Cleveland several times over the years and was enamored of the area, particularly Café Miami's Old Brooklyn environs. "I love this neighborhood," says the uterine cancer survivor, adding that the staff and services at Metro are top notch.
Opportunities for the graphic designer, however, were slim to zero, so she took a job in home health care to get by.
"I'm not afraid to work," says Paz. "As long as it's work, I'm proud of that."
But she couldn't make ends meet, and by February, she was ready to throw in the towel and move back to Miami. Then she had a conversation with the previous owner of Café Miami, Larry Fields.
"I believe everything happens for a reason," says Paz, and when she realized that proprietorship was within her grasp, "I started crying. Café Miami--that's the place that I want."
So she struck a deal with Fields, got her vendor's license, designed a new logo and opened the doors in April. Thus far, business has been brisk with a diverse customer base, although Paz hopes to launch an advertising campaign soon.
Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with extended hours on Friday evenings. Paz has added a coffee station and other equipment and has brightened the charming and eclectic space, which seats 35 to 40, with flowers and pieces of her art. She's also updated the menu.
"The Tropi Chop is one of my favorites," she says. The dish features yellow rice, choice of grilled chicken or pork, black beans, pico de gallo and curry sauce. Other items include a go-to breakfast selection, empanadas, baked sweet plantains and a Cubano sandwich.
"I've cooked since I was a little girl," says Paz. "Cooking is art. Cooking is passion. Everything I do, I do with passion."
Paz plans to add more commercial equipment and is working on a permit to import Honduran coffee. Currently she relies on traveling family members to bring her the signature Cafe Don Maury, with which she brews a heavenly Cuban Latte so rich and creamy, it blows the crown off of that Starbucks mermaid. She also wants to add small tables with umbrellas out front. But mostly, she aims to make Café Miami her signature spot, and become a stalwart member of the Old Brooklyn community.
"I'm so happy," says Paz. "I think I will stay here in Cleveland for a long time. I like this place. I love this place."