La Borra del Cafe, a chain of coffee shops with roots in Guadalajara and more than 70 locations in Mexico, made its North American debut in 2019 by opening a shop in neighboring Berwyn. A Chicago location soon followed, and now, the burgeoning Mexican-owned business has set up shop in Oak Park. The well-appointed café, 1100 Lake St. Suite 102, celebrated its grand opening on July 6 and aims to put a fresh spin on the classic café model.
After spending the night prior putting finishing touches on the space and dancing to Shakira, the mood at La Borra Oak Park upon opening was both welcoming and jovial. While residents popped by for a coffee and pastry, company-wide leadership and investors were on hand to celebrate the expansion and greet guests.
“Her heart beats here,” said Goretti Campbell, La Borra investments strategist and partner of Fernanda Torres, Oak Park shop manager and investor. “Fernanda’s goal is to connect with the Oak Park community and spread inspiration.”
The business, inspired by La Borra de Café, a novel by Mario Benedetti, is just eight years old and has bold plans to open more Illinois locations and more than 200 California cafes in the next decade. Despite these grand plans, La Borra creates cafes designed to reflect the neighborhood they inhabit and function as both social gathering places and public workspaces intentionally placed on corner lots to ensure well-lit spaces.
The coffee drinks, food offerings and decorative elements are unique to each location. The Oak Park cafe features clean line design, ridiculously comfortable custom seating in shades of red, grey and black, and a bright red bike hangs from the ceiling. A quaint glassed in meeting room invites guests to make “small decisions,” “big decisions” or “change the world” depending on the amount of time they choose to utilize the private space. Piles of books litter the shelves as part of a community minded book sharing program sponsored by the café.
“We want to say yes as often as we can,” said Torres. “We want to connect with the community, host events, hang local art and celebrate everything going on here. I love architecture and know the importance of Wright and Hemingway in Oak Park. This location will reflect those interests.”
La Borra is also eager to bring Mexican heritage and culture to Oak Park. Goretti and Torres take pride in being a contemporary Mexican company with a founder who manages up Latina leaders within the company. In fact, the bakery purveyor for all La Borra locations is woman-owned. Right now that baker, Lucy Tacher, is in Illinois baking the goods served at the Oak Park location. She learned to bake from her mother who is the mastermind behind La Borra’s bakery offerings.
“The corn cakes are really special,” said Tacher. “I used to get in trouble for selling them on the playground when I was in school in Mexico and look at where I am now.”
The cakes are nearly gluten free and have a slightly sweet flavor profile and a pleasing texture. An array of sweet and savory strudels, toasts, concha, orejitas, and croissants round out the La Borra menu. Tacher intends to tailor to the Oak Park menu to reflect customer preferences as they become clear. The coffees served at La Borra are sourced directly from farmers in Mexico and the finished drinks bring a distinctive Mexican flavor to a market dominated by American style coffee drinks.
La Borra is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.