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Puerto Rican restaurant El Cafetal receives Orlando’s recognition

It has not been open for a month, but El Cafetal Bakery & Restaurant has already become one of the favorite places among Hispanics in Central Florida.

The owners of El Cafetal, Melvin Méndez González and Misely Raíces, made their dream come true by bringing a piece of their Island to the Puerto Rican community that has made Central Florida their new home.

With three open businesses in Puerto Rico (Hatillo, Camuy and Quebradillas) the restaurant located at 6125 S. Semoran Blvd. has 118 seats and a varied menu that includes freshly baked artisanal bread, sandwiches, “quesitos” (cheese-filled pastries) that transport you to the Isla del Encanto cafeterias and a variety of pastries, plus lunch and dinner items that include rice, mofongo, meats, chicken — and you cannot leave without your freshly brewed coffee.

The El Cafetal Puerto Rican restaurant officially opened on June 1 and has grown at a steady pace after expanding to Central Florida. This week, they were recognized by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer during his State of the City Address as one of the small businesses that has successfully established itself in Orlando.

Dyer mentioned the city’s initiatives aimed at strengthening and diversifying its economic ecosystem and described Méndez González and Raíces as true examples of business owners who are expanding locally before showing a video of the new location.

Last week Dyer also participated with City District 2 Commissioner Tony Ortiz in the ribbon cutting ceremony of the location that generated 25 new jobs and announced it is also giving a 10 percent discount for students from the University Ana G. Mendez, Polytechnic University Orlando Campus and Mech Tech Institute, with their student identification.

Since 2009, El Cafetal Restaurant & Bakery has been offering the traditional seasoning of Puerto Rico, café cola’o (coffee) and “pan soba’o — which, for many years, has distinguished it among Island diners. This authentic Puerto Rican bakery provides to its customers a family ambiance to enjoy an extensive traditional menu through which they will have the opportunity to taste the heritage of the Island’s cuisine.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Raíces confessed. “It was a lot of sacrifice, but we hold onto God to achieve everything we had planned.”

The Méndez González-Raíces family moved to Central Florida after hurricane María hit the Island in 2017. Although they had plans to expand the business and then relocate, “we had to do it inversely. We had to move first because things were not too good over there security wise, and then kept on working with the expansion here. Now we are happy that we have been able to succeed here while still having our business in Puerto Rico,” Raíces said.

Jennifer A. Marcial Ocasio is the Sr. Editor and Reporter for El Sentinel Orlando. You can reach her ar 407-540-4004, via email or Twitter @JenniferMarcial

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