I met Tatu Herrera, the tattooed, friendly owner of Folklores Coffee House, for a $2 cup of his artisan coffee on a crisp February morning. The coffee shop is a bright cobalt blue building trimmed in fuchsia, known for its Anthony Bourdain and Julia Child mural, (painted by local artist Mike Comp, who also painted the Manu Ginobili mural on San Pedro). Tatu tells me when Bourdain passed away, it hit the culinary community hard and he wanted to pay tribute. As the former chief of the Grand Hyatt, Herrera wanted to create a “chef’s take on a coffee shop” and formally opened Folklores Coffee House, with his partner wife Emilie in October of 2018. Check out their social media footprint – they have nearly 15,000 Instagram subscribers – to get a view of the changing menu – they sell anything you can get at a standard coffee shop – sandwiches, salads, yogurt and fruit parfaits, oatmeal, pastries (breads from local panaderias on weekdays and vegan baked goods from Miss Chickpeas Bake Shop on weekends) – all with artisan flare. The coffee is locally sourced from San Antonio locals, 1885 and brewed at the Blue Star. There are craft Valentine’s Day cards – “I Donut Know What I Would Do Without You,” says one with a donut on it, and another with a drawing of narwhals, known as the unicorns of the sea, crossing spiral ivory tusks that say, “Narwhal you be my Valentine?” There are also hats and t-shirts – one, in particular, stands out in gold letters that say “Cabrona with a Big Heart.” They sell Mexican Coke too but aren’t another boring run-of-the-mill gentrifying coffee shop, so common near downtown.
By contrast, the coffee shop is owned by San Antonio natives and located on the far Southside on 5007 S. Flores. The building was formerly an ice and meat house and has Friedrich relics inside, only identifiable to discerning eyes. The storefront has a prominent “CBD Pain Relief” sign, as they house the CBD oil shop, Lady Grace, owned by Herrera’s wife Emilie, Gilda Garcia and Lucy Salinas, curanderas (traditional native healers, shamans or witch doctors found in Latin America, the United States, and Southern Europe) for the modern age. Listed as an “Alternative & Holistic Health Service” Lady Grace CBD is marketed for pain relief associated with chronic conditions, such as arthritis, anxiety and even depression. The shop’s entrance has three large gold letters – C-B-D, a rug that encompasses the entirety of the room and a large crystal chandelier that attracts myself and I assume, other potential customers. The staff are friendly and answer any questions you may have. You can buy juices (pineapple, orange, ginger with CDB and berry and mint with CDB), gummies, t-shirts, and other wares. You can even buy CBD-infused coffee back at Folklores.
But comfortable sofas, sarapes, coffee tables, and interesting artwork make space have what Tatu calls “Grandma Chic.” That is, if your Grandmother was cool enough to have photos of Malcolm X with Muhammad Ali, a painting of Tupac Shakur, a black and white photo of Herrera’s great-grandfather holding an accordion and one I incorrectly thought was Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd, which turned out to be another
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culinary “rock star” chef, Marco Pier White, a British chef called the “godfather of modern cooking.” there is a Misfits poster and a painting of a dainty cat in Amy Winehouse garb and bouffant wig, a nod to the couple’s punk roots. There’s Jenga!, Connect Four and an unclassified board game, the varieties of which change often, since Herrera tells me neighborhood kids sometimes ask, and are given permission to take games home to play. Another sign of comradery with the community, Folklores Coffee House participates in the Little Free Library program, whose motto is “take a book, share a book.” At press time, there were two James Patterson books, The Microwavable Guide and Cookbook and several children’s books, including I Want to Potty and Scruffy Teddy’s Books of Opposites. It is the Herrera’s furniture, art, photos and board games that fill the coffee shop and it sets Folklores Coffee House apart from others – it is relaxed, unpretentious and feels like home because it is many ways, their home, and the community’s, whom they are committed to.
As such, once a month, they host free yoga classes, open mic poetry and every third Saturday of the month, they set up 14 tables outside where local vendors can sell products. The venue is also rentable during off hours. Magnets near the register are only from local businesses and include Dignowity Kolaches, Red River Acupuncture, Barrio Barrista and a TexasCompetes.org magnet, signifying a partnership of business leaders “committed to a Texas that is economically vibrant and welcoming of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.” The fact that Folklores Coffee House is committed to diversity, community, building up small businesses and have “Death Before Decaf” as their official slogan (the meaning of which I have known since middle school), means that I will continue to be a grateful patron of Folklores Coffee House, a true “Hecho en San Antonio” business that is as authentic and endearing to the community as they come.
Folklores Coffee House, 5007 S. Flores St., San Antonio, TX 78214, (210) 455-7829, Business Hours (M-W, 8AM-5PM, Thursday – Closed; Friday 8-5; Sat 9AM-5PM; Sun-10AM-3PM)