Cafetano in the Strip is Being Rebranded as Soluna, a Café and Mezcal bar
The daytime menu – and staff – will remain the same.
Carl Allison has been sampling a lot of mezcal lately, but he says it’s worth the hangover.
Making the agave-based spirit is an art form in Mexico. Allison, a local businessman and military veteran who has traveled extensively throughout Central and South America, wants to support small, family-owned distilleries while teaching Pittsburghers about the beverage. Much like bourbon is a type of whiskey, tequila is a type of mezcal.
That’s why Cafetano Coffee Roasters, the Honduran café he helped to open last year in the Strip District — and was a Pittsburgh Magazine Best of the ’Burgh staff pick — is getting a boozy rebrand. In November, it’s expected to reopen as Soluna, a daytime coffee shop with a mezcal bar in the back room for evening imbibing.
“We have this beautiful space that closes at 2 p.m. every day,” Allison says of the former Gaucho Parilla Argentina spot at 1601 Penn Ave. “I wanted to do more with it.”
The new area will feature a 13-foot bar and comfortable seating. It will be fully stocked with all types of beer, wine and spirits, including artisan mezcal brands such as Lola, a distillery located in Mexico City. To start, the space will be open Thursdays through Sundays from 2 to 10 p.m. It will be available for private parties the rest of the week.
Patrons will be able to enjoy a tapas menu and sip hand-crafted mezcal cocktails or enjoy the beverage straight from traditional clay cups. Allison hired a local expert on the liquid, who will offer his expertise during events held in the second-floor classroom, which currently offers coffee courses. Global Coffee School is one of two educational coffee centers in the United States.
The café will continue to operate from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. even during the transition from Cafetano to Soluna. The building is on schedule to get new signage next week.
The dedicated staff is staying put and the menu will also remain the same with a mix of breakfast and lunch options, desserts, smoothies and coffee beverages made with beans grown on small farms throughout Honduras. Allison says they import approximately 70,000 pounds of beans each year with the potential for 150,000.
While on a business trip to the Central American country, Allison met his future business partner Mirko Cuculiza, who opened the first of five Honduran Cafetano coffee boutiques in 2015.
Allison spent a lot of time at Cafetano, which served as his makeshift office. Impressed by the company’s high-quality products and business model, he convinced Cuculiza and his family to launch a roastery in Pittsburgh that strictly used Honduran beans to help spur the nation’s economy.
Although the business partners have parted ways, Cafetano will continue to thrive in America with a new location in Florida.
Soluna, which is derived from the Spanish words for “sun” and “moon,” is working with Specialty Group to acquire and transfer a liquor license.
“Bringing alcohol into such a well-known business is always a no-brainer,” says Sidney Sokoloff, vice president of Specialty Group. “The Soluna team wants you to enjoy the coffee you know and love, representing the sun, and add their new mezcal line-up, which will represent the moon.”