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The backstory: Marleni Valle, Silas Valle and Todd Allbaugh couldn’t have picked a better symbol for Finca Coffee than the Torogoz, the national bird of El Salvador. For one thing it honors the hometown of owner Marleni and her husband, Silas, as well as the place where general manager Allbaugh fell in love with well-made coffee. But it’s also fitting because in El Salvador, if a coffee farm is an environmentally friendly operation and produces shade-grown coffee, it creates a perfect habitat for these colorful birds that have two peculiarly long tail feathers. Like the Torogoz, Finca Coffee is beautiful, it signals environmentally conscious growers and it’s just a bit peculiar — as Finca serves direct trade coffee with Latin fare, like tacos, quesadillas and pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador.
The vibe: You pick up on the coffee shop’s deep connection to El Salvador right away. Colorful tiles on the kitchen’s half wall depict art from El Salvador’s most famous artist, Fernando Llort. A colorful mural, red dishware and other details brighten up the sun-filled, industrial space in a building owned by The Alexander Co., which helped Finca with its build-out.
The menu: “Finca” means farm in Central American Spanish, and Finca Coffee’s beans comes from one source: 4 Monkeys Coffee Roasters, a coffee farm in El Salvador co-founded by Alejandro Mendez and Daniel Mendez (no relation). Alejandro and Daniel, who have both won international barista championship titles, trained Finca’s head barista, Miguel Vega. The star of the food menu is the pupusa, which is a traditional street food of El Salvador made with corn flour and usually stuffed with a filling such as meat, cheese or beans. Finca serves pupusas with semi-spicy coleslaw and tomato sauce. You’ll also find breakfast food and other Latin items on the menu (served until 4 p.m. every day except Sundays), including Mexican quesadillas, tacos, burritos and nachos. Drinks include coffee, tea, house-made Italian soda, beer and wine.
The must-try: If you’re expecting a Mexican-style quesadilla, Finca’s Salvadoran quesadilla may surprise you. It looks more like a sweet cornbread and is made with queso duro, which tastes like a cross between ricotta and Parmesan cheese, Allbaugh says. It’s also made with butter, eggs, sour cream and sugar. “They go well with coffee,” Allbaugh notes.
The bottom line: Offering Latin fare and coffee pairings, Allbaugh admits Finca looks a little crazy from the outside looking in. “And we kind of are,” he says. “But I think it makes us different in Madison. It gives people the ability to enjoy specialty coffee with authentic Salvadoran food.” 2500 Rimrock Road, 285-9230
Andrea Behling is editor of Madison Magazine.