by Max Marbut
“Mi casa es su casa.”
That’s the motto at the International Cafe on Hogan Street and making people who come in for breakfast and lunch feel at home has been the recipe for success for the family business.
Alvaro Borge and his wife, Lillian, opened the restaurant almost eight years ago with his sister-in-law, Hilda Castillo. Since then, they’ve served breakfast and lunch five days a week to people who work and visit Downtown looking for something with a home-cooked Latin flair.
They came to America from Nicaragua, where Alvaro was a customs administrator. After 20 years working for Winn-Dixie, Alvaro and Lillian decided they wanted to open a restaurant. They looked at several locations before deciding to set up shop Downtown. With no prior experience in the food service industry, they decided to cook what they grew up enjoying in Nicaragua.
The breakfast menu is mostly traditional American fare such as bacon, eggs and bagels, but there’s also chorizo sausage on pita bread and Cuban toast with cafe con leche.
The lunch menu is built around different daily specials, such as tostadas, tacos, roast pork, tipitapa fish (fried and topped with onion and tomato sauce) and ropa vieja (shredded beef seasoned with onions, bell peppers, garlic and spices). They also sell a lot of Cuban sandwiches.
“We brought the recipes from home to America. We prepare the same dishes in the restaurant that we like to eat at home,” said Borge.
He said one of the first lessons they learned about the restaurant business is that it never stops.
“We get here at 5:30 in the morning to open for breakfast at seven. We close about three o’clock after lunch, then we go shopping for what we’re going to cook the next day,” said Borge.
While the Central American family recipes are usually the day’s best sellers, sometimes it’s the burger or the Philly cheese steak.
Painter, illustrator, portraitist, caricaturist and photographer Ben Heine lives in Belgium and creates images that you don’t see everywhere. In fact, the only place in America you can see Heine’s work is at The Next Gallery on Laura Street.
Artist and gallery principal Sharla Valeski discovered Heine through some of her colleagues in New York City. She tracked down his agent and arranged to have two pieces shipped to Jacksonville. They arrived Wednesday.
Valeski said the two photographs are limited editions and part of a series, “Pencil vs. Camera.” Only eight prints are produced of each of the digital images, which are a combination of photography and drawing.
“I’m very excited,” said Valeski. “This is the first time we’ve shown an artist who isn’t local and it’s the first time Ben Heine has been represented at an American gallery.”
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