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Reviews & Awards

Quality & Excellence Entrepreneur Pacesetter Award
“On behalf of the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Quality & Excellence Entrepreneur Nomination Selection Committee, we are excited and honored to inform that Carlos A. Branger has been selected the winner of the 2010 Quality & Excellence Entrepreneur Pacesetter Award. We commend you for your accomplishments and track record of success!…”
Yolanda Tafoya, Interim CEO The Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

D Magazine –

Texas Monthly

Dallas Morning News

Dallas Observer

Hispanic Magazine – A Percolating Enterprise
US Local Business Association Award
Citysearch – Best of Bakery, Lunch Spot
AOL – Named for an architectural element that symbolizes hospitality…
North Dallas People – A Few to Tango
Star Telegram – Zaguán  blends spice with everything nice & hip

In the Media

D Recommend 2010, 2011, 2012

“The people of Dallas-Fort Worth love to dine out.  And whether they’re looking for a great new spot to partake of a culinary masterpiece, or just a place to chow down while having a fun time with friends, they turn to D Magazine for guidance.  Surveys show that 88 percent of our readers head right to the restaurant listing as soon as they pick up a magazine, and our restaurant guide is our most-searched online directory on dmagazine.com. Readers return to our reviews time and again because they know they can trust the honest, critical opinions of our expert team of editors.

Our online directory features about 1,000 restaurants. Why only 1,000 out of the 10,000 dining establishments in the area?  Because our listings are reserved for businesses we recommend.  We visit restaurants anonymously.  No listing ca be bought or influenced by paid advertising.

We’re happy to recommend your restaurant.  To honor your business as among the cream of the crop, we’re sending you a “D Recommends 2012” decal.  Remember, these are awarded only to the most notable dining establishments in Dallas-Fort Worth and the surrounding suburbs.  We encourage you to display the decal prominently.  When they see it, customers will know instantly they’ve come to a place worthy of their valuable time and money…”

Nancy Nichols
Food and Travel Editor

Best Breakfasts

Zaguan Latin Café & Bakery – Don’t get mixed up. “Latin” in no way means “Mexican” here.  We’re talking traditional street food from much farther south, brought indoors to a cozy, blue-tiled corner of Oak Lawn.  Zaguan’s twin claims to fame are its arepas and cachapas, both corn-based dishes that can be filled with eggs and vegetables and a variety of meats and cheese.  We prefer the English muffin-like arepas to the sweet cachapas (they are similar to a classy McGriddle), but we’re not judging if you want to go a different way.  Beyond that, Zaguan also offers an assortment of empanadas (Venezuelan/Colombian and Argentine) and bread.  Oh, the bread: dulce de leche and cheese, guava and cheese, and the deceptively named ham bread, which also includes olives, raisins, and bacon.  The menu offers about a dozen such delights.  A trip to Zaguan is worth it for the bread alone.  2604 Oak Lawn Ave. 214-219-8393

Best Latin Lunch

Thanks to Venezuelan owner Carlos Branger, we’ve added the word cachapa to our lunch vocabulary. Picture this: an omelet-like corn-studded turnover hugging a filling of seasoned shredded beef and white cheese, served with a smattering of plantain chips.  Then taste this: a trio of flavors- the sweetness of the corn, the savoriness of the beef, and the ever-so-slight saltiness of the melted cheese – bursting into one magical note on your tongue.  That must be what they mean by Latin love

Side Dish Latin Love

Behold the sweet ham bread. Its simplicity is deceptive. Inside this buttery loaf lay folds of tender ham, piquant olives, and plump raisins. It’s simple in appearance but sophisticated in flavor. And that perfectly describes Zaguán World Bakery & Café. Though named after the elaborate entryways of grand colonial homes in Venezuela, Zaguán is anything but fanciful. It’s comforting with its pebble-stone mosaics, bright orange walls, and fresh-baked aromas. In the morning, exotic offerings include guava and cheese Danish, chocolate-filled churros, and ham and cheese cachitos (a South American popover).  At lunch, you might feel like you need a guidebook with Zaguán ’s savory offerings such as arepas (Colombian grilled corn turnovers), cachapas (Venezuelan sweet corn turnovers), and empanadas (deep-fried white corn turnovers). All come with a variety of stuffings, including chicken, serrano ham, beef, or prosciutto. The bakery case adds further temptation with cakes, pies and mousses, including a sweet, delicate dulce de leche cake…

“Favorite 25 Dishes under 10 bucks”

Imagine a cornbread muffin somehow crossed with a crepe.  Then imagine the resulting warm, flexible breadstuff folded around the filling of a roast-beef-and-cheese sandwich.  That, in essence, is a cachapa, a comfort food staple in Venezuela and Colombia and a popular order at Zaguán, a blue-and-white-tiled bakery and café in central Dallas.  Mild and moist, a cachapa must be eaten with a knife and fork (at least, this one must).  It’s best the minute they put it on your table, piping hot, when the melted white farmer’s cheese is good and oozy and the shredded beef is tender and just a little chewy, like a Sunday pot roast.  The room is busy at mealtimes with area businesspeople, expatriates longing for a taste of home, and later, with students cramming for exams.  2604 Oak Lawn Ave., 214-219-8393. Open Sun-Wed 7:30-9:00, Thur-Sat 7:30-10:30

“By Day this exotic, well appointed newcomer…”

By day, this exotic, well-appointed newcomer bakes superlative pastries like guava-and-cheese turnovers, napoleons, and the house specialty, cachapa – a spirit-laced sponge cake made with sweet corn.  They combat homesickness with fried green plantains and arepas – light Colombian and Venezuelan corn cakes split and stuffed with delights like prosciutto, seasoned chicken, or cheese…

Cookies We Love

Not only are alfajores the most famous cookies in Argentina, they also have a big following among Zaguán ’s Dallas clients, even non-Hispanics.  “It’s really two cookies joined in the middle with caramel,” says owner Carlos Branger.  That caramel filling is dulce de leche, Argentina’s answer to cajeta. It’s an ideal complement to the crumbly, plain-vanilla shortbread cookies.  The thick cookie sandwich is dusted with powdered sugar.  It’s a mouthful, and great with a cup of espresso or coffee.  “We have people who come in and buy a box of them to bring to meetings at the office,” says Mr. Branger…

Trick-or- treat

The Fog was as thick as pumpkin soup.

Send your trick-or-treaters off on their candy quests with a seasonal supper of pumpkin soup and cheese bread.  Available at Zaguán South American Café and Bakery, the soup is popular in Venezuela year round.  The savory cheese bread is made with Paisa, a Venezuelan-style fresh white cheese that’s rolled into the bread and sprinkled on top…

Empanadas make a handy meal
by Susan Taylor – Special Contributor

Empanadas – meat filling in a flaky crust – are Latin America’s answer to a cornish pastry, a calzone or a turnover. Four or five of these tidy pastries served with red wine make a popular meal in Argentina, says Diana Maraslioglu, owner of Shine’s Mediterranean Market.

Like pizza or other foods that can be eaten out of hand, empanadas are excellent for casual get-togethers or maybe a football party.

“Most countries in South America have empanadas, but in each country it’s different,” says Carlos Branger, owner of Zaguán World bakery & Café on Oak Lawn.

“In the north in South America, they use corn flour. Southern South America uses wheat flour. In Chile, they’re very big; Colombia uses potatoes,” he says, citing some of the differences.

Even the edges that seal the pasties vary, from those simply crimped with a fork to others that are edged elaborately with pastry braids.

“The size, inside and outside can be different, but the shape is always the same.” And that’s similar to a half-moon.

In Argentina, where Ms. Maraslioglu and her family lived before coming to Dallas, some shops sell only empanadas, including those filled with cheese, spinach and corn, as well as those with traditional meat fillings.

According to Ms. Maraslioglu, empanadas styles vary from state to state within Argentina.

Shine’s bakes its pastries in the style of those found in the state of Mendoza – filled with beef, onions, spices and olives.

Zaguán deep-fries its empanadas. The offerings include Venezuelan-style empanadas made with corn flour and filled with beef, chicken or cheese; and Argentinean-style, made with beef, chicken or spinach and cheese.

Both Ms. Maraslioglu and Mr. Branger agree that red wine is an excellent match for empanadas.  Ms. Maraslioglu prefers merlot.  Mr. Branger recommends cabernet.

Empanadas also work as appetizers before a meal such as a barbecue, says Ms. Maraslioglu.

In Venezuela, Mr. Branger says, it’s also common to eat empanadas (usually cheese) for breakfast at a café with coffee.  Small empanadas, called empanaditas, are served as appetizers.  Both Shine’s and Zaguán make empanaditas.

For a casual dinner gathering, figure on two to six per person, depending on the size (more for teenage boys) and as appetizers, plan two per person…

For international crowd, cafe provides a taste of home, Spanish is the main ingredient at Zaguán World Bakery and Café
January 4, 2003

The smell of melted cheese and baking bread mingles with snippets of two languages at Zaguán World Bakery and Café in Dallas. On a recent night, groups of Latinos talk animatedly, alternating between English and Spanish. Regular customers arrive and are recognized by employees, who greet them with “hola,” or “como estás?”

Just a few months after opening, Zaguán – located on Oak Lawn Avenue, a few blocks north of Maple – has become a hangout for Dallas’ international crowd, drawing people in with its mix of European and Latin American cuisine and laid-back atmosphere.

There’s the cachapas, a sweet corn cake stuffed with cheese, chicken or beef and popular in Venezuela; arepas, a crisp corn cake popular in Venezuela and Colombia; and café con leche, the strong espresso-and-milk coffee popular in Spain and Latin American countries. Not to mention three glass cases full of cakes, breads, turnovers and delicate European-style pastries.

“It’s so Latin American,” says Camila Castellanos, 17, who sits at the cafe one recent evening, trying to write an essay for school. Her family moved to Irving from Colombia when she was in the eighth grade. “It makes me feel at home,” she says.

About 60 percent of the customers on weekend nights are Latin American, says owner and Venezuela native Carlos Branger. That number goes down slightly during the day, when more U.S.-born patrons fill the restaurant. The store also draws a healthy mix of French, Indian and Pakistani visitors, Mr. Branger says.

Expatriates are happy to get the comforts of home. But the North American customers – as Mr. Branger likes to call them – are just as delighted with something different, he says.

“We get a lot of comments, ‘This is so beautiful, we’re so glad you guys opened,'” he says. “People here are very open-minded. They like to experience new things.”

Mr. Branger came up with the idea of Zaguán a few years ago, having helped colleagues with the opening of a Latin American bakery in Miami. He wanted to broaden the concept in Dallas – bringing in not just Latin American pastries, but also coffee, hot dishes and even beer and wine.

Here, the market for such an eatery was almost wide open, he says.

“There was not a place where you could find this type of product, and the variety that we offer,” Mr. Branger says.

Mr. Branger moved to the United States eight years ago, spending a short time in Wisconsin before moving to Chicago, where he obtained a master’s degree in business from Northwestern University. Shortly afterward, he was offered a job at Sabre, the Southlake-based travel-technology company. He still works there as a marketing manager.

His family – except for a brother, who lives in Miami – still lives in San Cristóbal and Caracas, Venezuela.

Although Mr. Branger had no previous restaurant experience, his formula for Zaguán has drawn customers. The cafe has a relaxed atmosphere, with mango- and papaya-colored walls and soft lighting. Everyone orders at a cash register and waits for their number to be called. If English doesn’t work, the employees will call out numbers in Spanish, too.

Once they pick up their food, customers are not rushed to pay their check and are left almost completely unbothered, save the occasional employee who walks by to clear the plates.

Men and women are allowed to eat, talk and linger over coffee and pastries – as it’s done in Latin America, Mexico and Europe – or to sit back and listen to the cafe’s music, which changes from Spanish pop to flamenco, to American pop, to classical and back again. Cigarette smoke, bountiful at cafes abroad, is noticeably absent. Customers who’d like to smoke at Zaguán can do so at a set of tables outside the restaurant.

One recent Monday evening, a pop song by Cher wafts out of the restaurant’s speakers. Four senior citizens eat dinner next to a blond woman, who coaxes her child to eat a piece of powdered pastry. “Aquí tienes, mi cielo,” she tells her daughter. Here you are, heaven.

At another small wooden table, a well-dressed group of friends sit satiated, their coffee cups and empty plates stacked in front of them. Luz Marina Salas, Oscar Escobar and Nancy Mejia, all Colombianos, visit Zaguán about twice every couple of weeks. They’re usually recognized by the staff.

“The food is what we’re used to eating where we’re originally from,” says Mr. Escobar, 47, who lives in Dallas. He favors an arepa stuffed with meat.

Mr. Escobar and his friends say there’s no other spot around to get the kind of food they’re used to back home. They can also converse freely and know they’re understood. The group speaks little English, and all 12 of Zaguán’s employees speak Spanish, Mr. Branger says. The bread makers are Argentine, the pastry chefs are from Colombia and Mexico, and others are from Colombia, Venezuela and Peru.

Recently, the cafe has expanded into catering and also hosts birthday parties. A recent party involved a group of friends from Spain, Mexico, India and North America, Mr. Branger says. “A lot of people know about us,” he says. “But many more people don’t know about the place.”

Best Break from Tex-Mex

As much as we love Tex-Mex, it’s easy to overload on refried beans and queso in this town.  So when we want Latin, but are tired of the enchilada platters, we head to Zaguán, a bakery and café with a South American flavor.  The menu seems to be constantly evolving, but standards include cachapas, sweet corn pancakes with your choice of fillings; arepas, white corn cakes that resemble English muffins, again filled with a selection of meats or cheese; and pabellón criollo, a hearty meal of shredded beef, seasoned black beans, plantains and rice.  Our favorite is the pabellón.  A freshly squeezed juice (including unusual ones such as watermelon and papaya) completes the meal.

A Zaguán is the mosaic-tiled entryway…

A zaguán is the mosaic-tiled entryway of Venezuelan homes, and this bakery and cafe is an entryway to some new tastes. Like traditional Venezuelan cachapas–a thick, sweet-corn crepe filled with shredded beef, Serrano ham or several other fillings, and arepas overflowing with melted Venezuelan cheese. You can make a meal out of cachapas and arepas alone, choosing from nearly a dozen fillings. We also enjoyed pabellón criollo– the Venezuelan national dish– a plate of mildly seasoned beef, caraotas (Venezuela’s black beans), ripe plantains and rice. The pretty, brightly colored cafe also offers a wide selection of Venezuelan and more continental pastries, Latin American sodas and fresh tropical fruit juice.

A Percolating Enterprise – Latino coffeehouses are changing the face of urban hangouts.
by Tomas Dinges

Zaguán Café and Bakery in Dallas, Texas, is more than a year old. In a town where Tex-Mex is the order of the day, 33-year-old owner Carlos Branger offers an alternative. In addition to baking the delicate pastries of Latin America, coffee is roasted on site.  He serves it in a style common to his native Venezuela; a shot or two of espresso with extra cream along with a froth of steamed milk. His customers, mostly non-Hispanic, now ask for it by its name, café marrón.

“We’re not just selling, we’re educating,” Branger declares. Typically, the young staff originates from coffee-producing countries such as Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras and Colombia. These employees deliver specialty coffee drinks to a crowd that includes professionals and students.

Zaguán South American Cafe Receives 2008 Dallas Award
U.S. Local Business Association’s Award Plaque Honors the Achievement

WASHINGTON D.C., November 4, 2008 — Zaguán  South American Cafe has been selected for the 2008 Dallas Award in the Bakeries category by the U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA).

The USLBA “Best of Local Business” Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USLBA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2008 USLBA Award Program focused on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the USLBA and data provided by third parties.

About U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA)

U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA) is a Washington D.C. based organization funded by local businesses operating in towns, large and small, across America. The purpose of USLBA is to promote local business through public relations, marketing and advertising.

The USLBA was established to recognize the best of local businesses in their community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations, chambers of commerce and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to be an advocate for small and medium size businesses and business entrepreneurs across America.

SOURCE: U.S. Local Business Association

Best of Bakery, Lunch Spot

Review Highlights – “Amazing café and bakery located off of Oak Lawn. The owner is extremely friendly, and the food and natural juices are amazing.  They have wonderful homemade breads and desserts, as well as great breakfast food.  It is our favorite place in Dallas, and I highly recommend it.  You won’t be disappointed!”

Zaguán  World Bakery & Cafe
From the Editors

Named for an architectural element that symbolizes hospitality, Zaguán World Bakery & Cafe is difficult to categorize. The rich coffee constantly brewing suggests a coffeehouse, while a light lunch and dinner menu of arepas, cachapas and salads implies cafe, but then there are the baked goods. Only a Latin American bakery could offer such tempting and delectable treats as fresh-baked breads, various fresh dinner breads, cheesecakes and even Napoleon are covered with dulce de leche.

For coffee lovers, a wide variety of Colombian choices is available, and non-coffee drinkers can opt for fresh fruit juices such as strawberry, kiwi, papaya and more. So, while Zaguán World Bakery and Cafe may defy classification, there is no disputing the quality of its products. — Kimberly Williams

A Few to Tango
by Paige Phelps,  Society Reporter

Zaguán, a Latin Bakery on Oak Lawn, might seem an odd place to gather on a Monday night, but a crowd began to trickle in, anyway.

Tables were moved, a dance floor was cleared, and the band Tango Trio – two brothers that could be twins but aren’t, and an older man clutching the microphone like a King’s scepter – stuck a chord.

The crowd took the floor, the women all in sexy heels that strap around their ankles, and began to tango.  The complex dance is daunting and beautiful to watch.  It obviously takes practice and skill, but no worries, fitting into this niche crowd of ex-pats and academics is as simple as listening to the beat.

“Americans who have learned tango come to practice.  Also we have a group of South Americans, who gather here,” Calors Branger, owner of Zaguán, said in his Venezuelan accent.  He is from Caracas but moved to Dallas in 1997.  “…they love the tango and want to come to dance and watch other people dance, to eat, and to have a good time.”

Meanwhile behind him, the three men played “Barrio Pobre,” and the dancing continued.

The dancers are young and old, from a variety of backgrounds.

“In terms of clientele, 60 percent are Americans, 30 percent are South American or European, and the rest are Indian and Asian,” said Mr. Branger of his shop, which is not only a place to tango but bossa nova, listen to jazz and the like.  The tango crowd definitely relays the feeling of a quirky yet erudite bunch.

“Tango appeals to people who have a curiosity about other cultures and ideas and languages,” said Laurie Vega, a tango instructor for Tango Argentino Dallas.

She grew up between the United States, Mexico, and Brazil, and said she enjoys tango dancing to break out of the “English culture” norm.

“I enjoy living life spontaneously.  People here [in America] are very what we call ‘salt and pepper’, sal y pimienta. In other words, no spice.  I’ve been teaching lessons for about two years now.  I’ve been four times to Argentina to study tango with top-notch, world-class dancers.  All of it brings out a way of life, everything you do outside of tango goes back to tango.  You buy clothes, you buy them for dancing tango, you meet new people, you tell them within 10 minutes you dance tango. I’ve gone tango crazy.”

Ms. Vega is not alone.  Another member of her tango school, Argentinean Carlos Zarazaga pulled on his black patent dancing shoes. “They have special soles and special construction, the heels are weighted forward,” he explained.  “That is the difference between ballroom and tango.  In tango, you are always leaning forward, not back.”

He has been dancing since 1996 but, he says, he never would have taken it up in his native country if he had chosen to live there.  Only in the US does he choose to dance.

“In Argentina the tango was kind of considered a dance people who are not decent do.  In the suburbs of Buenos Aires, it is a dance related to the immigrants, rather than to the established families in the city.”

Mr. Zarazaga earns his living in Dallas working at the Federal Reserve doing research in Latin American economic growth.

“I do very well here,” he said, referring to much more than his dancing.

Tango’s lower-class stigma might have something to do with the sultry dance moves couples perform.  Women wrap their legs around their partners, and the men are constantly sweeping their bodies up against the women.

“We always say, ‘Tango is a vertical dance for a horizontal desire,” Ms. Vega said with a quick laugh.  Her dancing partner for the evening was the Iranian-born Hassan Parsa.

“I have more international friend than not,” Mr. Parsa said for the crowd he runs in, echoing the answer the majority of those there to tango gave.  “We always end up where the tango is.  When I first saw tango I thought, ‘That’s the dance I’d like to learn.’ It is very sensual and romantic, a very sexy dance.”

“The man is definitely in charge in tango,” said Fred Grinnell, whose day job does not involve dancing but rather teaching bioethics at Southwestern Medical School. “It is a challenge for a lot of people to dance tango because of the degree of intimacy.”

As he was speaking, his wife was heating up the dance floor locked in a bear hug with an unknown dancing partner.

“Most kinds of dancing there is not a community, but this is a community.  It’s more than just dancing.  It’s a community that’s not just local, but national and international.  Like tonight, there’s a woman here from Argentina.  She heard about our group and came out tonight to dance.  Community is key. The community and the risqué-ness of the dance.”

Hispanic – Zaguán brings spice with everything nice & hip
by June Naylor

Few are Dallas’ particularly hip eating places where the price tags happen to be cheap.  When such a place does open, it’s big news.

Zaguán World Bakery & Café is just that kind of joint, and you can tell it’s a hit by the luxury cars crammed into its tiny parking lot.  The long line of happy customers waiting to order at the counter also attests to this Latin-Flavored eatery’s instant popularity.

We popped in for a weekday lunch recently and found plenty to like in the new Uptown hangout, opened by Venezuelan native Carlos Branger in a former Mexican café spot on Oak Lawn.  The presentation and quality of everything we tasted was impressive…

By the stroke of noon, diners formed a queue that threatened to spill out of the sunlight-filled, brightly tiled café onto the sidewalk…

We watched lovely sandwiches on fresh baguettes and plates of baked cheese, chicken and beef empanadas (pastries) go past, but had our hears set on the cachapas…   Alas, the batter for this Venezuelan turnover – essentially, a sweet corn pancake stuffed with melted cheeses and ham, chicken or beef – had gone awry that morning and none was available.

Instead we enjoyed a chicken arepa…, a savory corn pocket that’s grilled and stuffed with shredded chicken, lettuce and tomato.  We had mashed avocado added.  While refreshing in its simplicity, we would have welcomed boots from garlic and pepper.

Another South American specialty was the pabellón criollo…, a dish of sauté shredded beef with black beans, rice and thick discs of fried plantain.  Hearty and filling, this dish was balanced nicely by a cold Brazilian soda called Guarana… , flavored with a fruit that looks like cherry but tastes almost like apple.

Probably the most invigorating offering on this hot day was the freshly squeezed cantaloupe juice…, one of nearly a dozen natural juices offered daily.  Combined with water or milk, these seasonal offerings include mango, pineapple, papaya and watermelon.

Perfect for breakfast, a midday break or nighttime snack are the gorgeous pastries, the sort you’d usually expect from a master French baker. Choices include fruit tarts, Napoleons and éclairs, but our heats were stolen by the cream perfection of the cuarto leches cake….  That alone is worth the trip.