Restaurants / Openings

Xaman Café and Ayahuasca Cantina is Truly a Destination in Dallas

Hybrid Mexican Cafe and Bar Opens in Oak Cliff With Coffee, Sotol Cocktails, and Tapas

BY // 08.06.20

This week, Oak Cliff is getting a new destination to explore coffee, craft cocktails, and Mexican culture and community. Founded by friends and Mexico natives Gera Barrera and Mauricio Gallegos, Xaman Café will be a place to enjoy authentic Mexican Sotol, exotic foods, and coffee from Veracruz.

We got a first look of the new space at 334 W. Jefferson Avenue, a hybrid coffee shop and bar. As you approach the cream-colored painted exterior with “Xaman Café” spelt in dark green lettering, a small outdoor patio invites you into the space. Once inside, the coffee shop space has more natural, earthy, and bright vibes with some exposed brick and light brown wood. Mexican-made coffee cups and bowls are lined up on top of the espresso machine.

Xaman Café
(Courtesy of Xaman)

“Xaman” means shaman (or spiritual healer) and owners Barrera and Gallegos want their cafe and bar to be a unique experience. When you down a dark hallways toward the back of the space into Ayahuasca Cantina, the mystical agave and tapas bar that Gallegos is heading. The nod to the hallucinogenic brew isn’t a literal reflection of the cocktails (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your take), but rather a reference to the contrasting-but-balancing vibe of the overall space the two friends have created.

“We’re playing on energies,” Barrera tells PaperCity. He explains that the meaning behind “Xaman” is being aware of our existence and day-to-day life — overall, a feeling of being present. Whereas, Ayahuasca plays on the intoxications of alcohol and mysteries of unique Mexican spirits they’ll offer.

Gallegos was previously bar owner of Santos y Pecadores, a popular pop-up that once had a home in the back of Bowen House, and where Barrera was a regular. “There were some days when it would just be him and I talking” says Barrera. Gallegos says that Ayahuasca will be similar to Santos, just in a bigger space and with a focus on sotol (which tastes like an earthier tequila) instead of mezcal.

Barrera moved to Dallas 20 years ago, while Gallegos has been in the city about a decade. “I came right after high school,” says Barrera. Seeing firsthand how Dallas has grown immensely over the years, Barrera believes it’s ready for a unique concept like theirs. And the fact that they found this space in Oak Cliff makes them even more excited to showcase their authentic coffee, spirits, and foods to Mexican-Americans and Dallas natives alike.

“Oak Cliff is historically minority-based,” says Barrera. “We want to imprint our cultural heritage here so it’s not truly lost. Our goal is to bring our experiences from Mexico.” He says that in addition to the authentic Mexican food they offer, like chilaquiles in the cafe and tapas like squash blossoms and exotic proteins (rabbit, boar) in the back bar, they’ll also have music and Mexican artwork on display.

Xaman Café
(Courtesy of Xaman)

There will be two menus at the cafe-bar. The coffee shop will offer bites like sandwiches and salads with breakfast from 7 am to 9 am and lunch from about noon to 4 pm. Coffee drinks include pour-overs, lattes, and other espresso drinks, as well as coffee cocktails like the Oaxacan Carajillo, an espresso martini, and more. Happy hour in the back bar will begin around 5 pm and end at 7 pm. The menu at Ayahuasca will feature more gourmet food with ingredients like prickly pear, lamb, and fish. Chef Hugo Galvan (Casa Komali) is heading the kitchen. “Dishes will be sharable,” Barrera says. During Covid, they’ll be adjusting portion sizes for single plates. The bar will close around midnight at the latest.

As for the coffee at Xaman Café, they’re working with a family who owns a farm called Finca Fatima in Veracruz. “The grandson actually went to TCU,” he says. “We’re trying to get more regions as well, but the beans will be natural and washed.”

Barrera’s passion for coffee started about four years ago when he had the best cup of coffee he’d ever had. “This project was more for retirement,” he laughs as it came up way sooner for him. A systems engineer by day, he begun taking roasting and barista classes, and then started looking at properties in 2018. When the pandemic hit Dallas in March, Barrera was furloughed, which allowed him more time to work on the cafe. “It actually helped a bit,” he says of the pandemic slowing things down. “It allowed us to take our time, make the aesthetic right, and hire the right people.”

Xaman Café
Mauircio Gallego makes an espresso martini at Xaman Cafe. (Courtesy)

Gallegos is bringing in bartenders who have worked at local bars like Ruins and Bourbon and Banter.  Ayahuasca will feature sotol that no one else in Dallas carries, as well as fourteen cocktails. Gallegos is completely self-taught when it comes to sourcing spirits and crafting cocktails. He’s traveled around Mexico to different mezcalerias to learn more. Reservation-only, Gallegos hopes Ayahuasca will be able to host some private dinners soon for up to 10 people.

The two owners do not expect Xaman Café to have a lot of sit-in traffic at first. They just hope that this week, when they softly open, people will stop by for a coffee and to check the place out. They also added on the outdoor patio especially for Covid restrictions, since they can only be open up to 50 percent capacity. Make sure to follow the coffee shop’s and Ayahuasca’s Instagram pages for more opening info.

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