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New Café Offers Unique Dining Option For Community
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Since they opened in February, Palo Santo Café in Riverbank has had several customers from all over the Central Valley area. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL

Palo Santo Café has been open in Riverbank for the past couple of months, offering a variety of coffee, teas, homemade baked goods, custom gelato, and now breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They are open six days a week and are closed on Tuesdays.

Café owners Christian and Nayeli Vázquez had been planning to open the café for a year but due to COVID there were several delays. The soft opening on Super Bowl Sunday in February was a great first day for them; Nayeli said that they had a huge turnout with a constant line out the door and even ran out of a few things. The café is at 6333 Oakdale Road, Suite I and can be reached by calling 209-502-7213.

“When my husband Christian and I decided to open this café we wanted to do it for our community,” said Nayeli. “We just knew that our community was lacking a place like this. We wanted a place to bring the community back together, a place to come and chat, have a date, or be out with your kids.”

Nayeli has lived in Riverbank her entire life and has been in the family restaurant business since she was 10. Christian has lived in Riverbank for the past 12 years and was doing deliveries for his mom’s bakery in Mexico City when he was 14.

“We got married and started working for my parents and it was time for us to go on our own,” explained Nayeli about starting the café. “So we had this fantastic experience in Mexico and we wanted to bring something a little bit different so why not marry them, the coffee, pastry, gelato, with the Mexican culture.”

Not only can the Mexican culture be seen in the café through the décor and ambiance but also in their offerings like the coffee from Oaxaca, Mexico and now their food.

“I feel like educating the community about what it really means to order a macchiato or a cappuccino, and introduce them and let them know what it is really about,” added Nayeli. “We put our heart and soul into this, it is our baby.”

Previously the café was a mail depot that did not have a kitchen so they had a general contractor and did a lot of the renovations themselves. When the shopping center opened in 1996 and her parents moved in next door with Taqueria Los Compadres the café at that time was a yogurt shop. Nayeli recalled going to the yogurt shop when she was a kid which gave her the inspiration for the café.

They did their research and took their courses for baristas and gelato. Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law from Mexico City make homemade pastries daily with gluten free, vegan, and Keto friendly options.

They started out with the Espresso Bar, gelato, and pastries with the intent on serving guests a full menu. Now they have breakfast, lunch and dinner options like Ultimate Guacamole Toast, Signature Salads, sopas, pozole, and Chicken Tinga.

The menu has traditional California cuisine with a Mexican twist, Nayeli noted. For example they have a Palo Santo Cilantro Lime salad that has mixed greens, roasted corn, cherry tomato, pepita seeds, pepper Jack cheese, tortilla strips that is drizzled with their creamy cilantro lime vinaigrette but then they have a Strawberry Fields salad with mixed greens, bleu cheese crumbles, fresh strawberries, walnuts, topped with a strawberry vinaigrette.

Another option is the Ultimate Guacamole Toast which is a customer favorite that has sourdough toast topped with guacamole, queso Cotija, an over easy egg and pico de gallo or the Everything Seasoned Avocado Toast that has avocado spread with cream cheese, cherry tomato, everything seasoning, arugula, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic.

The soups on the menu include the Sopa de Fideo, Sopa Azteca, and Crema de Poblano.

The banana berry crepes have been a top seller as well as their ceviche.

“Everything is made in house and that is why we took our time to introduce it and not just throw something out there on a plate,” explained Nayeli. “We decided that we are going to do this and we wanted to learn it the right way. We are a different concept.”

They have an assortment of gelato flavors and Nayeli shared that it is not ice cream. It is Italian ice cream that has 50 percent less fat and is more airy. It is made in small batches in house and is not delivered to them.

They have specific cups for the different types of coffee that is ordered, like the Espresso drinks that come in two little cups with one ounce each that are supposed to be drank one right after the other according to Nayeli.

She said, “Espresso is made to be enjoyed right when it comes out so you can get the best of the flavor and the crema.”

The Cubano is a top seller at the café along with the Strawberry iced latte made with a special strawberry mix, milk, topped with whip cream, strawberry syrup and sliced strawberries.

They offer milk alternatives and sugar free flavors. For the non-coffee drinkers they do have a variety of Rishi organic teas like English Breakfast black tea, Dandelion Detox-Pu’ER tea and Botanicals, Lavender Mint Botanical blend, and Matcha Super Green Green tea.

“The number one thing for me is having the right team,” stated Nayeli. “My husband is at the bar taking care of all the drinks, then my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, comadre, my parents and my sister are my backbone. That support is key.”

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Palo Santo Café serves an in-house made gelato in a variety of flavors. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL
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Palo Santo Café owners Christian and Nayeli Vázquez are very passionate about serving the community top notch drinks and delicious food. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL