Jose Marin, 45, and wife Martha, 45, reside in Egg Harbor Township, a long way from their native Colombia. That hasn't stopped them from creating a little piece of their homeland in their new Pleasantville restaurant called Mambo Cafe.
In business for three months, when the Marins moved their thriving grocery store to a new location just across the street at the corner of Main and Decatur avenues, the idea of a bakery/coffee shop/restaurant became a reality.
After leaving their casino jobs in Atlantic City, the Marins have had several ethnic grocery stores in the Atlantic City or Pleasantville areas. A restaurant, however, is a whole different matter.
"This is something new for us," Jose Marin says. "This is a combination of a bakery with a coffee shop," says Marin "A Columbian coffee shop, where everything is baked from scratch."
What makes Mambo Cafe different?
"The breads," says Marin. "We don't have donuts."
Columbian breads are more savory than the American-style sweet breads served at breakfast, and many are often made with cheese.
"We don't fry anything, everything is baked," says Marin.
Cuando canto el gallo means "when the rooster crows." That means breakfast time at Mambo Cafe, where you can get an American-style breakfast and much more.
Omelettes include western, Italian, and country, and diners can also enjoy steak and eggs ($11.99), ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches ($6.99), pancakes ($7.99); french toast ($7.99) and Belgian waffles.
For more of a Columbian feel, Mambo Cafe serves corn cakes instead of pancakes called arepas, which are grilled, crispy Columbian corn cakes served with a variety of toppings. Country style come topped with beans, rice, pork, and sausage ($7). Other possibilities include grilled steak ($6), three melted cheeses ($6), seasoned pulled meat ($8), or the more complex pork loin and shrimp in a Mambo pink sauce ($11).
"There are so many ways to make an arepa," says Marin. Like a pizza, you can use any toppings that you like.
Marin's menu travels to Spanish-speaking countries all around the Caribbean with offerings such as breakfast burritos ($4.99); green or red chilaquiles ($11.99); calentado paisa ($6.99); and mangu Dominicano ($7.99), two eggs any style served with smashed green plantains, salami induveca - a smoke flavored cooked salami - and fried cheese.
"Because we are a continental cafe, we picked a few dishes from Mexico, San Salvador, Honduras so that people from the area don't feel like it is just a Columbian coffee shop," says Marin.
Since people in the neighborhood are from many different countries, Marin wants everyone to feel comfortable with the surroundings and his menu.
"We don't just focus on Columbian, food, we focus on the region," says Marin.
The lunch and dinner menu offers many recognizable dishes with some surprises.
Quesadillas, tacos, flautas, nachos, ceviche, and even Buffalo chicken wings are available, along with Marin's take on a sesame-crusted, seared tuna appetizer.
Unusual dishes include a Columbian starter called Picada Montanera (for two $13.99; for four $19.99). This platter includes sausage, Columbian sausage, pork rind and beef served with corn cakes and plantains.
Also, from El Salvador, a pupusas mix ($8.99) has a selection of thick corn tortillas stuffed with pork, cheese, and beans, served with cabbage mix and fresh tomato sauce.
A selection of sandwiches and hamburgers include a Columbian hamburger ($8.99) made with 8 ounces of angus beef, bacon, mozzarella cheese, pineapple sauce and mambo special sauce. A grilled chicken sandwich, a Columbian hot dog, and a tenderloin cheese steak share billing with the famous Cuban sandwich ($8.99) stuffed with house roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread.
Entree offerings include a Mexican bistec ranchero ($11.99); a grilled rib eye steak ($19.99); and mofongo with pork or chicken ($7.99) or shrimp ($14.99) made in the style of Puerto Rico or Santo Domingo with mashed green plantains.
Expect plenty of good beef. Marin uses certified black angus beef in his kitchen. Fresh fish available includes Atlantic salmon and red snapper served in various styles.
"A lot of American people like to try something different," says Marin. Mambo Cafe aims to please everyone.
The beverage selection is large and interesting with an assortment of smoothies, natural blended juices, imported sodas, and their own horchata, a rice milk drink seasoned with cinnamon and lime.
Most of the desserts on offer are made in the kitchen at Mambo Cafe. Flan, tres leches and rice pudding are made in-house.
"My wife makes a passion fruit cheese cake," says Marin.
The completely renovated restaurant features the lime green and orangecolors of the Caribbean with a light and breezy effect. Colorful dried flower arrangements greet you in the foyer and separate the dining area from the coffee shop/bakery.
The coffee station is situated close to the front door and cash register for quick service. Cases of baked goods stretch the length of the bakery.
On display are chocolate chip cookies, cheese and guava pastries, croissants and pig's ears, along with all of the savory breakfasts breads that are baked on premise.
Coffee beans, like grapes used to make wine, taste different depending on where they are grown and how they are roasted.
"We have arabica coffees, Columbian blend, and Peru-Mexican mix," says Marin.
You can order all of your coffee favorites including cappuccino, espresso, latte, or mocha latte to go, or you can sit on one of the high top chairs at the counter to slowly sip your favorite brew with a freshly baked pastry.
WHERE: 226 S. Main Street,
WHEN: Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Breakfast served from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
HOW MUCH: Breakfast $4.99 to $11.99; lunch and dinner appetizers $7.99 to $14.99; sandwiches and hamburgers $5.99 to $8.99; entrees $9.99 to $17.99; sides $2.49 to $4.49; desserts $3.99 to $4.99.
SERVICES: Major credit cards accepted. BYO. Disabled access. Eat in. Take out. Private parties. Catering. Kid's menu. No smoking.
MORE INFO: Call 609-484-1200.
BETWEEN YOU AND ME: Owner/host Jose Marin has experimented with live music at the Mambo Cafe on special occasions such as Mother's and Father's days. Expect to see more live entertainment in the future.