Above: A perfect pour of Bocadito’s café colombiano
Being Latinx comes with a lot of pride for many. But it also comes with complex challenges, especially in San Francisco, where less than 16 percent of the population is Latinx.
The local Colombian population is underrepresented here. Mexican and Salvadoran communities are the most populous among Latinx nationalities in the city. And locals—including us—crave popular foods like tacos or pupusas.
However, so many consumers never consider switching up their orders to authentic café colombiano or obleas. People forget or never know that Latin America has 20 countries and 14 dependent territories.
Enter Bocadito, the self-dubbed “snackeria” on a full-fledged mission to put more San Franciscans onto Colombia and its glorious delicacies. Founder Liliana Ramirez always loved the delicious street food scene in her mountainous hometown of Manizales, Colombia. So she started the concept in 2018 with the help of the La Cocina incubator, recreating snack spots from back home in her newly adopted hilly city.
San Francisco’s food scene is incredibly competitive. Ramirez’s vision was to make Bocadito the first local business of its kind serving traditional small bites, including handmade obleas.
These razor-thin Colombian wafers are incredibly light, containing original dulce de leche, all-natural blackberry juice, and fresh coffee pour-overs. And they’re delicately topped with shaved coconut and whipped cream. Of course, the sweet flavor and crunchy texture make an undefeated combo, and this item never overstays its welcome in ways the flagship product of a snack-savvy brand should.
Bocadito’s two flagship items are both like abuelas in their own ways. The obleas represent their softest side, deliberately extending the equivalent of a gentle, heartwarming welcome to family and friends. Meanwhile, the café colombiano is as sweet as it is bold – it packs insurmountable strength with unmatched grace.
If you’ve never tried it, don’t chug it too fast, or you’ll go from 0 to 100 and might garner enough confidence to spontaneously climb Everest or run a marathon within four hours. Don’t do that. Either way, we cannot confirm or deny that the coffee gods will grant you enough power to disappoint Kanye.
Bocadito was making strides as a business last year. Customers raved more and more about the experience as the “snackeria” was finally beginning to solidify its brand.
But when COVID-19 spread to San Francisco, Ramirez faced unexpected challenges. Covering kitchen rent was much more difficult once farmers markets and local events were canceled in clusters. The La Cocina incubator instilled an hourly rate for the kitchen spaces Ramirez uses. Without this space and its industrial appliances, it’s nearly impossible to bring menu items to life.
This is particularly saddening, not only for financial reasons, but because those in-person experiences fill Ramirez with joy. As more people have stayed home, opportunities to introduce Colombian culture, one oblea or café at a time, become harder to come by.
Ramirez’s vision was in danger in the early months of the pandemic until the rental agreement with La Cocina was reworked. Now she benefits from greater flexibility with payments, making her business expenses much more manageable.
While life during COVID-19 isn’t easy, Ramirez remains one step ahead: Her gumption in recent months leaves her standing taller than the mountains she grew up around.
The Bocadito owner is busy plotting her next chapter. She eventually wants to open a brick-and-mortar location that could draw more customers than the local meetups she attends. Opening a physical store also provides more opportunities to expand her menu and add homemade items to the mix. However, she may wait to see how leasing options change soon.