The restaurant opened at 1141 Syracuse Street in May 2020, during the pandemic, and blends siblings Ana Santos and José Santos Jr.’s forward-thinking vision and designs with their father’s traditional Mexican family recipes. As co-chef alongside the senior Santos, José combines beloved Mexican dishes with New American ingredients to create well-balanced, hearty brunch items that range from chilaquiles to classic French toast.
A customer-favorite menu item, the Azteca Burrito is stuffed with tender steak and beans, then topped with more steak, cheese, grilled bell peppers and onions, sliced fresh avocado and a signature vegetarian green chile — a cherished recipe created by José Santos Sr. many years ago, when he arrived in Colorado from Mexico. "We're from Jalisco, Mexico. Over there they don't really eat green chile," Ana explains. "He started practicing green chile until he perfected it. We've kept the same recipe for quite a while already."
"There is no pork in our green chile, which is kind of hard to find,"José adds, "so for vegetarian options, it's a great alternative."
The siblings' excitement for the family-owned business is contagious, and cooking runs deep in their blood; they're grateful to be where they are today, with the memory of opening so soon after the start of the pandemic still fresh in their minds. According to Ana, it wasn't always smooth sailing. "It was very, very hard in the beginning," she says, "but it's getting a lot better. The neighborhood is starting to support us, and you know once people get a little taste, then they most definitely come back."
Surviving one of the harshest restaurant environments of modern times, Santos Cafe and Grill initially struggled through supply issues and shutdowns. The family had to be flexible with menus, making frequent adjustments to dishes based on available ingredients. "With COVID, there were a lot of different transitions, so we figured out what things to keep and what things to get rid of," José notes.
But despite the challenges, the family says that the neighborhood has embraced the restaurant and cafe, and they look forward to continuing to improve and grow the business with new ideas and a passion for serving the community.
Santos Cafe and Grill is located at 1141 Syracuse Street and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 303-484-9391 or visit santoscafeandgrill.com.