One of the many nice aspects about living in Ciudad del Río is the chance to watch this neighborhood develop building by building, business by business.
Cariñito Café is the new kid on the block. Located behind the Ibis Hotel, in the Centro Empresarial Ciudad del Río building, the sliding glass door to this colorful, warm and welcoming café opened September 16, 2014.
Facing west means it’s a little easy to miss if you’re coming in from Avenida Las Vegas, but you’ll be rewarded with a view toward the mountains this side of the river, something none of the other cafés or restaurants in Ciudad del Río can claim.
I first noticed Cariñito when I resumed my trips to the gym in Premium Plaza. A wooden platform had been built over their section of the concrete sidewalk and filled with six tables, umbrellas and chairs.
It was eye-catching and drew me in out of curiosity one day as I walked back from a morning workout.
Once inside, I could immediately tell it was my kind of café.
The space was bright and open, with a second floor loft accessible via stairs along the left wall. The mostly wooden first floor was broken up by colorful hexagonal tiles.
An inviting couch and coffee table were nestled against the far wall. A long communal table beckoned for friends and strangers alike to chat over coffee.
In the rear corner, near the restroom, a small table with two chairs offered easy access to an AC outlet, perfect for those who prefer an out-of-the-way space to focus on a book or work.
Left of the entrance were three custom-made chairs in the shape of open suitcases. They looked uncomfortable until I sat in one myself and was reminded looks can be deceiving.
Sweaty and amped from the gym, I kept my first visit brief, ordering the organic coffee of the day with Baileys to go.
As I waited, I met Lina, the lawyer turned café proprietor behind Cariñito. She clearly had a vision for her café and I’m just glad the location she chose turned out to be a few blocks from my apartment.
In subsequent visits, both alone and with others, I began working my way through the various drink and food options.
Cappuccinos are my mainstay, and the ones at Cariñito are delicious (4,500 pesos, $2). As an added bonus, they do latte art (those cute little designs in the foam), which you don’t see too often in Medellín.
We have Jose, the barista, to thank for it. He spent a dozen years working in the hospitality industry in Bogotá and also has experience teaching baristas.
Like the café itself, you’ll find the written word on the cups. The attention to detail makes hanging out there all the more fun. The first few weeks, I noticed something new with every visit.
In addition to a normal coffee selection, they also offer filtered options including syphon, Chemex, drip and ice coffee.
The tea brand on offer is Stash (my favorite) and you can order it either hot or cold. The selection is housed in a handsome wooden case on the counter for you to browse.
Hot chocolate is a tasty open for those of us with a sweet tooth, whether you take it black or white (5,000 pesos, $2.30).
Those looking for an extra kick can benefit from a tea drink with a shot of gin or vodka. Sparkling wine options include mimosas, rossinis and bellinis. Red, rosé and white wine are available by the glass or bottle. They even have artisanal beer!
I believe it was Ryan H who recently remarked about how hard it is to find a good turkey sandwich in Medellín.
When I noticed Cariñito serves a turkey sandwich, I made it a point to order it for lunch one day. At 18,000 pesos ($9), it can seem a little pricey by local standards, but you get your money’s worth.
The sandwich includes turkey, cherry tomatoes, emmental cheese, lettuce, candied peanuts and balsamic vinegar on your choice of artisanal bread. It’s served with either a side of chips or salad.
Other sandwich options include smoked salmon with blue cheese, roast beef with grilled vegetables and prosciutto with salami and caramelized onions. You can bet I’ll be working my way through them all.
There’s also a well-stocked pastry counter where you can find a variety of sweet and savory snacks.
I can vouch for the Argentinian empanadas with ground beef (4,800 pesos, $2.20), chocolate brownies (3,500 pesos, $1.60) and plantain and coconut muffins (3,800 pesos, $1.75).
If all of this hasn’t been enough to satiate you, Cariñito also offers a few special desserts, including artisanal basil ice cream (7,000 pesos, $3.50) and strawberry parfait with granola and Greek yogurt.
The occasions I took my laptop, I clocked the WiFi download speed at 7Mb, which is plenty fast enough for most people’s purposes.
In conclusion, Cariñito Café fills a longstanding void in Ciudad del Río for a casual, comfortable environment to hang out with a good book, friends, family, coworkers or a date.
Update: As of December 2014, they’ve also created a breakfast/brunch menu with a half-dozen options like pancakes with marscapone and honey. Best of all, they’re available any time of day!