Dining Out Restaurant Guide
By Christopher Malone
Little Peruvian cafés have a lot to offer
Since 2017, Hope Café has made a name for itself. Personally speaking, it’s been thrown around by friends and acquaintances often with encouraging and insisting — “you have to go there.”
Not only does the café provide patrons breakfast and lunch, part of the café’s mission is to give back to those in need.
Hope Café, which prides itself on its Peruvian-inspired food, Italian-infused American-style stake in the local food industry, now officially boasts three locations scattered around Onondaga County. The newest location. which opened recently, is on East Genesee Street, near the corner of Townsend Street.
I visited the Liverpool location at the former home of The Village Burger, which closed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope Café followed suit with the former burger joint and utilized the brick building with what it had going for it — plus, there’s a drive-thru window to boot.
The clean, refreshing interior of Hope Café gives perspective as to what life could be like after global dominating chains phase out and quality-food-minded local businesses take over.
Plants are everywhere, there are built-in bookshelves packed with literature and a plethora of tables inside and outside.
The seat-yourself establishment requires patrons to order at the counter. When the food is ready, it’s brought to you. This is all accomplished by a smiling, friendly staff.
The emoliente ($2.86), a Peruvian barley and herb tea, is probably the first drink to put the idea of abandoning morning coffees. It’s a need-to-try hot beverage for those who haven’t had the opportunity to. Barley may not be the first ingredient atop a morning tea drinker’s mind but it’s a mild addition complimenting the myriad herbs. It’s a very calming way to lead in to a meal or what could be a stressful day.
Out of the handful of smoothie options, the strawberry avocado ($4.45) sounded delightful — a blend of two favorite foods. The medium-thick, light pink smoothie lived up to the anticipation, boasting bright flavor. Of course, the already subdued, modest avocado took a backseat compared to the strawberry.
The first time I enjoyed arepa was at a Miami Marlins baseball game. The flavor of the white corn dough pocketing meat, cheese, or whatever ingredients you wanted in there. The South American fare was quite a treat and was the highlight of the entire experience being at the game.
Hope Café’s carne arepa ($5.75), basically seasoned beef between the two halves of white corn dough, brought me back to the previous notable food moment. It tasted as great as the stadium’s arepa but probably made with better quality meat and for half the price. (Note: There was only one stand dedicated to arepas at the Marlins’ stadium, so they weren’t mass-produced.)
I opted to have a spicy rocoto sauce accompany the arepa, which already had a slight kick when considering the spices. Adding the chili-mayonnaise sauce provided more flavor rather than intense heat, save the spicy kick.
For sweet and savory lovers — the chicken and waffles ($8.25) is a sure bet, especially with the sriracha maple sauce. The crispy chicken is sandwiched between two light, airy waffles. The spice from the chicken’s coat with the sugar from the maple syrup are one-two punches for the right reasons.
The small cup of the sriracha maple sauce is also just enough. The waffles were far from dry, so drowning them in syrup would have been (and is) unnecessary.
Hope Café describes its chicharron con pan ($8.95) as “the best damn ‘sangwich’ outside of Peru.” This confident statement sealed the deal when ordering a bold item. The lightly fried, not overly-seasoned pork belly accompanies sweet potatoes and pickled onions. And don’t forget about the finger-licking-good sauce.
The pork belly by itself wasn’t dried out, so Hope Café had nothing to hide with the sauce. There’s a lot going with the sangwich — it’s so fun to say — in terms of seasoning but its not overpowering. The flavor will certainly linger, a food’s passive-aggressive way of saying goodbye.
The Tuscan bowl with chicken ($10.44, includes $2.99 protein addition) is a personal-sized yet hearty option. The chicken sits atop a bowl filled with quinoa, black beans artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, cheese and more.
The small but substantial bowl focuses more on quality than quantity. In a world of countless wasted food, not that anyone would disregard the majority of a grain bowl.
Before tip, the meal came to $40.70.
Hope Café lives up to the hype. If you don’t listen to me, be sure to take the recommendations from family, friends or whoever else is pushing you to try it, seriously.
920 Old Liverpool Road
Liverpool, N.Y. 13088
8223 Oswego Road
Clay, N.Y. 13090
444 E. Genesee St.
Syracuse, N.Y. 13202
Monday – Saturday: 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.