Song Pairing: Flowers of Guatemala by REM
Stepping into San Martín Bakery and Restaurant on a rainy spring night was like walking into a tidy garden of bright flowers, edged by brick and marble, cradled by lush greenery and illuminated by firefly-like lamps. It felt like a Viennese coffee shop except, the décor of Guatemalan owls and tiny little worry dolls and the elegant letters that spelled out Pasteleria and Panaderia was an obvious tell that it’s not European, rather Guatemalan.
This charming eatery opened in December though I had, sadly, never heard of it prior to the media dinner invitation. I feel I missed out on cute Valentine’s cookies, Easter sweets and by having morning meetings at Starbucks, not here. Well, that’s about to change. San Martín is perfect for morning meetings, lunches, brunches, dinners and just dessert-only dates and I can envision baby and bridal showers, girls’ night out and after-tennis lunches too. On nights when my husband and I have our 7:30 Spanish class, I can see us popping in for a quick, easy dinner.
The dinner menu is diverse and, for me, surprisingly Italian in offerings. There are several different pastas on the menu. I tasted a one with a light, tomato sauce with a hint of smokiness from pancetta but would like to return to try the lasagna and ravioli (confession: I could eat pasta every day). There are also several pizzas, all of them using a light, thin crust, a nod to the lightness of Guatemalan Pan de Agua. There are also soups such as the Sopa de Elotes, a creamy sweet corn soup and the Guatemalan staple Frijoles al Albañil a salty, rich soup with panela cheese, avocado and tortilla strips on top. They are both delish. There are great-looking salads and appetizers including Guatemalan style Tostadas and Carpaccio, beef and avocado.
I didn’t try any of the hamburgers or sandwiches but will definitely return to try the traditional Guatemalan options, such as the Shuco, a hot dog loaded with guacamole and white cabbage salad and the Arrachera, skirt steak on a baguette with a chili mayo and avocado, seriously all good things to eat. I’ve never been much of a Bruncher, probably because I’d rather eat breakfast AND lunch instead of just one brunch, but I would like to check out the Belgian omelets, the chilaquiles and every single pastry they sell (except the ones with banana, I do not eat banana under any circumstances).
What shines most to me are the pastries, breads and cakes that are all made fresh in a nearby commercial kitchen. Beautifully-made cakes, cookies and cupcakes will draw your eye, but the taste will draw your soul. The light Rosca Vienesa is a San Martín original and is a light, not-too-sweet almond-kissed bundt cake that I brought to the office and was gone in half an hour. Croissants, strudel and eclairs are laced between Guatemalan specialties such as pan dulce, sweet bread; polvorosa, a shortbread cookie and the Guatemalan Quesadilla which is nothing like the quesadilla we know as Texans, rather it’s a sweet cheese bread/cake. All fresh pastries and breads are available for dining in or takeaway, and there are take-and-bake offerings of the Pan de Agua, Pan Francés and Chapata rolls as well.
San Martín serves and sells all-Guatemalan coffee. If you’ve been there and didn’t think much of its coffee, it’s probably because, according to Gabriel Castillo, the director of U.S. operations of this Central American chain, the best Guatemalan coffee is exported. Numerous coffee drinks are available from the coffee bar and include espresso, macchiato, americano and cappuccino and well as the house specialties Café de la Casa with and without milk. The restaurant is beer and wine only, with the red list serving only American wines from California and Washington State, and the white list offering a bit more diversity, with American, Italian and New Zealand wines and Italian and French bubbles. Beers are also mostly American with two Central American beers added to the list: Famosa from Guatemala and Pilsener from El Salvador.
Prices here are very reasonable. One person can easily spend just $20 for a nice dinner and less for lunch and brunch, depending on your drink and pastry options. The restaurant and bakery are open daily from 7 am to 8 pm. If you haven’t been, go. It’s great for everyone at any time. Parking is ample and the setting is really lovely, like all flowers of Guatemala.
This article was originally published in the Park Cities People Newspaper
3120 McKinney Avenue, Uptown
Website: sanmartinbakery.com (it’s all in Spanish)