The Hyattsville Wire caught up with Monica Serrano, co-owner of Café Azul, one of the first retail spots to open in the Arts District.
Why did you decide to get into the restaurant business?
My husband and I decided to go into the restaurant business because I wanted to continue the family business. I grew up working in my family’s restaurants here in Maryland and Spain. My husband also worked in his family’s food service business in Venezuela and graduated from culinary school in Puerto Rico.
Is there any meaning behind the name Café Azul?
I picked the name because I wanted a word that was Latino and customers could identify us for serving south American food. Half our menu is Venezuelan food, and the rest of our menu is a mix of our backgrounds. My family is from Spain and Colombia and my husband’s family is from Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Italy.
What are your specialties?
The most popular items on our menu are the Venezuelan arepas, Cuban sandwiches and empanadas.
What drew you to open the cafe in Hyattsville?
My family noticed the potential for growth in this area because of its proximity to Washington, D.C., and the University of Maryland. Also, we felt it was a midpoint for our Venezuelan customers who travel from all over Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.
How have you noticed your business change as the Arts District has built up?
We have definitely noticed that our café business has grown over the last couple years because of all the new construction in the area. We feel that we are now at a good point to expand our hours and focus on dinnertime. Many of our customers have been requesting that they would like to come during the evening after work, so we will now open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until 9 p.m.
The cafe has a well-trafficked Facebook page where you can learn more about things like daily specials.