Care for some authentic Mexican street food? Some uniquely decadent desserts? Open for less than a year (August of 2022 to be exact), La Chinita Café & Bakery provides all that and more. Citlalic Guzman, the owner of this quaint establishment tucked just off Snow Street in Oxford, said she opened it to provide Hispanic locals with traditional Mexican street food and other treats they may crave from their homeland. The catch is, the wonderful dishes they offer can be enjoyed by anyone willing to try something new. I can attest to that, having sampled some of the offerings of La Chinta Café & Bakery myself.
When I first walked it, I was immediately charmed by the bright, colorful atmosphere of the café, which features round tables with chairs in multiple hues–pastel blue, pink, yellow, and green. There’s even an area against the back wall with chairs for children to enjoy their candy, ice cream, and more. As you near the counter to order, there’s a wooden cart displaying fresh torta bread that’s used for deli sandwiches. Beside that sits a cooler with a variety of ice cream and popsicle treats. Opposite, shelves with some name brand chips and candies mixed in with imported kinds from Mexico. Most interesting, on the bottom shelf lies clear bags of potato chips Citlalic has baked herself from scratch.
I chatted with a customer at the counter who said he travels all the way from Pell City to purchase some of the items sold at the café. He gave heavy praise for her horchata (rice drink) and aguas frescas (fresh waters). Citlalic provided me with a sample of their cucumber agua fresca, which is basically cucumber juice mixed with iced water. These refreshing beverages are perfect for hot summer days. I later ordered a taller cup of her watermelon agua fresca and found it to be a great alternative to a standard soda or plain bottled water.
Having spent over 20 years of her life in Oxford, including attending Oxford High School, Citlalic shared that she is the first in her family to own a business–a fact that made her glow with unassuming pride. She already had a background of baking cakes out of her home for special events hosted by locals that knew her, from weddings to birthday parties. She told me that one popular Mexican celebration she bakes cakes for is the fiesta de quinciañera, a special party held for Hispanic females who have reached their 15th birthday. This special event marks the transition of a girl from childhood to womanhood. These celebrations can be massive, and a special cake is a vital part of it. Citlalic creates these custom-made cakes, as well as other types, in a range of $35-$45 for a smaller one, and $120 for a cake that can feed 50 or more people. Some of the types of cakes she custom-bakes or sells in her shop are cheesecake, tres leche, and tres leche jello. In a tres leche cake, the three kinds of milk are evaporated milk, condensed milk, and Mexican sour cream.
Wanting to sample some of her food as well as a dessert, I opted for a Chicken Tostada, Elotes (Mexican Street Corn), and Fresas con Crema (Strawberries and Cream), after having seen another customer order it. This dessert is simple, yet delightful, consisting of a full cup of freshly cut strawberries mixed with rich cream, and topped with whipped cream and crushed almonds. The tartness of the strawberries combined with the sweetness of the cream was a light and heavenly choice to conclude a meal or for a mid-afternoon treat. Another dessert specialty popular with local patrons is the Mangonada, which consists of mango ice cream and cubes of fresh mango drizzled with chamoy sauce–a type of sweet and sour sauce composed of dehydrated fruit (like mango) and a kick of Mexican spices.
The Chicken Tostada was flavorful, a fresh, crunchy tostada topped with tender shredded chicken, avocado, lettuce, cream, and crumbled queso Cotilla (a type of Mexican cheese), and accompanied with a side of pico de gallo. There are two options for lovers of Mexican Street Corn–the first being the traditional Elotes, which is corn on the cob smothered in queso Cotilla, mayo, and Tijin spice. Or you can get Esquites–Mexican street corn in a bowl, with the same basic ingredients. My love of Elotes was certainly satisfied in the version sold at La Chinta Café & Bakery, with the fresh, juicy corn elevated by the traditional ingredients coating it.
Another popular street food dish sold at La Chinta Café & Bakery is Chicharrones Preparados–a flat, rectangular chicharron (similar texture to a pork rind) topped with mayo, cabbage, pico de gayo, pickled pork skins, cheese, and sour cream. Other food items suitable for lunch or an early dinner include ham & cheese sandwiches (or pastries), hot dogs, and Dorilocos.
However, that’s only half the fun. They offer a wide range of pastries and desserts, like waffles and crepes, topped with your choice of fruits like strawberries, bananas, blueberries, other fruits, condensed milk, Dulce de leche, and even Nutella chocolate. For those who prefer fruit desserts, you can purchase an extravagant Piña Loca (Crazy Pineapple)–a carved-out pineapple stuffed with all kinds of fruits and other delights. Or you can opt for one of their cups of fruit (another popular cultural choice)–mixed fruit topped with chamoy sauce.
Ice cream, specialty donuts, and other pastries round out the list of choices you’ll encounter at La Chinta Café & Bakery, located at 1215 Snow Street in Oxford, Alabama. Their hours of operation are Tuesday thru Thursday 10 am – 7 pm, Friday and Saturday 9 am – 8 pm, and Sunday 11 am – 6 pm. For more information, or to put in an order for a decadent custom cake, call (256) 403-1535 or email Citlalic.email@example.com.