Latin-Caribbean restaurant Cafe Salsera is celebrating its soft opening this week with limited hours but plenty of coffee and pastries. It's located at 2610 Elm St., next to 7-Eleven, in what was once the Video Bar.
The Deep Ellum spot also promises something the neighborhood does not have: salsa dancing.
The cafe was conceived by entrepreneur and salsa fan Wilson Chan and his wife, Waltz; it's managed by their son Carey. Their vision was brought to life by restaurant designer "Build it With Bruce" Russo, whose recent work includes Stock & Barrel in Bishop Arts. The design cunningly creates the illusion of a courtyard, with an indoor dining room, outdoor patio and second-floor balcony.
A 28-foot stage on the left can be used as an elevated dining area during the day. It transforms into a platform for dancers and bands on select nights, ranging from salsa and bachata to Argentine tango and merengue.
The restaurant has a dual personality: It's a cafe during the day and a place to salsa dance at night and on the weekends. A fresh-scrubbed patio incorporates a walk-up window where you can stop and grab a coffee.
Menu items include albondigas, aka Spanish meatballs, in a spicy tomato sauce, with fried yucca in "mojo de ajo" garlic sauce, served with jicama salad. There's the Salsera trio, with roasted chicken, pork and jerk shrimp, served with salad, rice, beans and fried plantains. The Puerto Rican-inspired "mofungo" dumplings are made with mashed plantains and topped with shrimp mojo.
There is also a well-stocked pastry case featuring house-made treats such as brownies iced with Nutella frosting, cookies, and individual Key lime and coconut pies.
Cafe Salsera eventually will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, says spokeswoman Alejandra Iraheta, but during the first week or so, it's open for lunch and dinner with coffee in the morning. The walk-up window for to-go coffee is already in operation.