The tale of two Café con Leches
Oftentimes, parting is such sweet sorrow. But in the case of the former Café con Leche partners, notsomuch.
Esam Hani and Ulysses Salamanca partnered up to open Café con Leche in Logan Square in 2002, but last year the two friends parted ways, leaving Hani to run the original location but giving Salamanca “one-time rights” to open a spin-off, according to Hani. Now Salamanca is preparing to do just that—his Café con Leche will open in mid-August in the Bucktown corner pocket that housed Johnny’s Grill for 30 years and, most recently, Lobos al Fresco (1732 N Milwaukee Ave). Salamanca also owns nearby Flash Taco and Underdog, but says his new BYOB will ditch the late-night munchies grub in favor of Pan-Latin specialties like lechon with arroz con gandules, grilled skirt steak, red or green chile chilaquiles, Cuban sandwiches, and, of course, the namesake sweet and potent coffee.
He’s particularly proud of refurbishing the combo grill/flat top used at Johnny’s Grill (“to pay tribute to Gus the Greek who owned it back before this neighborhood was what it is now,” he says) and of his efforts to be kid-, bike-, and dog-friendly. “We’ll have fresh fruit smoothies, milk and juice boxes for kids, a bike rack for bicyclists, a water spigot for thirsty dogs on walks,” Salamanca says. “Basically we want to welcome everyone in any way we can.”
Meanwhile, Hani has plans of his own for the original Café con Leche. “I’m going to do modern Hispanic food in a tapas format but in a laidback dining room that I’m creating by expanding into the space east of me,” Hani says. “We’ll still have WiFi and the coffeehouse thing during the day but my grand plan is to get the liquor license so I can do sangría, full bar, craft beer and I’m building this back beer garden that will seat around 50 people.” Hani hopes to have his ideas in place and unveil the new incarnation of the place by mid-September.
So while both will share the same name and even the same street, each partner said (seemingly through gritted teeth) “I wish him the best.”