When Mariela Paz opened the doors to Sabor Miami Cafe in Old Brooklyn on March 31, she knew she had found her calling. The restaurant, which features Latin inspired dishes amid the flair and décor of Miami, was a result of Paz’s desire to put her love of art and cooking into an entrepreneurial endeavor.
“I’m so happy because this is me,” she says of her new restaurant at 4848 Broadview Rd. “It has a full commercial kitchen, art and artwork and my paintings on the walls.”
Originally from Honduras, Paz came to Cleveland to be closer to family after working for 13 years as a graphic designer for a silkscreen company in Miami. She previously operated the former Café Miami just down the street while battling uterine cancer, undergoing surgery just four months before its opening. Then she began thinking about running her own restaurant.
“I loved my job [in Miami] but I worked at a computer all day,” she recalls. “Everything happens for a reason. For me now, it’s just enjoying the little things. I want to help with art and I want to get involved in the Cleveland community through my art.”
The 35-seat café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast options include the bistec a caballo, a popular Miami dish of steak topped with sautéed onions alongside eggs, home fries and Cuban toast. Lunch and dinner items feature Paz’s signature Latin favorites such as vaca frita (fried cow), ropa vieja, (the translation for which is "old clothes," but fortunately, the dish itself is one of stewed beef and vegetables) and an assortments of empanadas.
Good coffee and coffee drinks are a must for Paz. The drinks menu includes Cuban coffee, Mayan mocho (a blend of espresso and milk) and Coco Beach latte (iced coconut coffee con leche and whipped cream).
“You have to have a good cup of coffee,” says Paz, “because sometimes you go to a place and the food is the best food, but the coffee is not good.”
Paz renovated and redecorated the café herself. “The kitchen is good and the place is nice and homey,” she says. It's also where she does all of the cooking herself while her mom, her niece and a friend help run the café. “I am so lucky because I get paid for what I love to do,” she says. “I put my heart into my cooking. It’s a lot of work for me, but I have no complaints.” She plans to hire staff as business grows.
Ahead of opening, Paz joined the Economic Community Development Institute (ECDI), which helps small businesses such as hers succeed by providing tools, technical assistance and support, and took advantage of the organization's business training classes. ECDI also gave her a $750 loan to launch the venture and build her credit. Rumor has it ECDI staff will drop in for a plate of Paz's homemade eats on occasion.
Customer reviews of Sabor Miami so far have been few but stellar, Paz says, adding that she’d like to eventually offer some Honduran dishes. “I want people to come and feel like you’re a family or you have a friend here,” she says.
Or bring your family. To that end, Paz has already started hosting “Painting with Mom” coffee, tea and canvas parties. The first two events were so popular that she will hold another one on Sunday, April 24 from 3 to 6 p.m. The cost is $45 per mother and child pair and includes all painting materials, sandwiches, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, flavored lemonade and pastries. Call (440) 714-0202 for reservations.
Paz plans to host similar events in the future and add community outreach programs, like feeding the homeless, to her repertoire. “I have many ideas in my head,” she says. “Because that makes me feel good. I don’t want material things. I’m a good person. You have to keep going when people tell you, ‘you can’t do that.’”
Sabor Miami Café is currently open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support community.