Breakfast and Brunch

Latte Art Is Served Alongside Mexican Cuisine at Santos Cafe and Grill

Co-owners José Santos Jr. and Ana Santos showcase new ideas at Santos Café and Grill.
Co-owners José Santos Jr. and Ana Santos showcase new ideas at Santos Café and Grill. Staci Berry
The Santos family isn't new to the hospitality industry. They've run Tres Girasoles, which now includes three food carts and a brick-and-mortar location in the Clayton neighborhood, since 2012. But along with Mexican-focused breakfast and lunch, the family's new establishment, Santos Cafe and Grill, offers something different, too: a cafe where creative latte art is the star of the menu.

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."
click to enlarge A variety of latte foam art at Santos Café and Grill, including the very popular puppy selection. - STACI BERRY
A variety of latte foam art at Santos Café and Grill, including the very popular puppy selection.
Staci Berry
The cafe is headed by Ana and offers a variety of drinks, from fresh-squeezed orange juice to numerous coffee creations including its most popular item, the horchata latte, which combines horchata and two shots of espresso. Other seasonal creations such as maple spice and pumpkin spice lattes are also available, and all of the coffee drinks can be made with milk or a variety of non-dairy alternatives. Much like her brother, Ana injects her own creativity into the cafe with new drink ideas topped with exquisite latte art that customers can choose by ordering via QR code. Ana hopes to one day expand the art selections and allow customers the ability to upload their own photos  — which are likely to include many pet images, she says with a smile.


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.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Staci Berry is a Louisiana transplant living in Denver since 2012. She enjoys fancy feasting with friends and the dirtiest martinis possible.