On a recent rainy Saturday, a couple of us journeyed to midtown Atlanta to check out El Viñedo Local — a gorgeous South American-themed restaurant we’re happy to say serves Cafe Campesino’s shade grown, fair trade, organic coffee. Although other staff members from Cafe Campesino have visited frequently, this was our first trip. We came away so impressed (and full of delicious food) that we followed up with them to find out more about how the restaurant came about and what inspired them to create it. We spoke with owner Robert Kaster about all things Viñedo (Spanish for vineyard).
Eva Avenue: What inspired you to open your excellent restaurant?
Robert: Some type of wine bar/restaurant has been something I wanted to do for a long time. I had a career for 24 years with Hilton hotels. I decided in 2017 to leave the corporate world and pursue my passion. We live in the neighborhood here so we’re down a few blocks. We wanted to bring something to the neighborhood that you couldn’t readily get everywhere. It’s the type of food I tried and fell in love with. The nuances between South American food and Central American food are very different. We did site selection and then went out to seek out the products that would be the best for this concept. Cafe Campesino coffees, certainly the wines, and finding the right chef.
Eva: How’d you find Bruno, your chef?
Robert: More than anything we got lucky. We actually had kind of identified another person before the pandemic who was a chef but did not come from South American and would’ve had to try to replicate the food. After the pandemic we got back to the need to hire a chef . We were so fortunate when Bruno applied and we saw his background and where he was from. We interviewed him and it was a right fit. Things happen for a reason and there was definitely a reason for it.
Bruno’s from Uruguay and after high school he moved up here to Atlanta. He had an opportunity to work with some pretty great chefs and in some great restaurants. He was able to learn and perfect his culinary skills by working with all these great chefs here in the city. This gave him an opportunity to go back and start creating food from his childhood.
Eva: What was your connection to falling in love with South American food?
Robert: For me, it was more what I had tried– arepas, empanadas– and I always loved it. There are certainly many variations on empanadas from different regions of the world. Spain is where it all originated, you have the Philipino empanadas, but the ones I enjoyed the most are from South American tradition. Not really spicy like the ones from Mexico. More nuanced flavors, a more traditional beef empanada. Another thing that solidified it is that we knew we wanted to do something with wine. Not only because it’s not spicy, I mean Mexican is harder to pair with wines, unless it’s really sweet wine, but South American food pairs really well with wine. There’s even Peruvian wines– I wish we could get a hold of some, but we can’t at the moment.
They’re great value too, we wanted to create a space where people could try things they’ve never had before. The nice thing about South American wines is that people might not be not as familiar with Chilean Carmenere. The other thing with wines from South America, for the money you spend, you get some great quality. We can put things on the menu that are reasonably priced and people can try them.
Eva: How’d you find Cafe Campesino?
Robert: That’s an interesting story. We were trying to figure out roasters. We knew what prompted a robust coffee program for us is the fact that our space is inside an office building. When we were negotiating the lease we knew an important thing for the tenants would be a great coffee program. So we were going to do it right– get the right coffee, the right equipment. We visited some roasters in Atlanta. There’s a blog called Atlanta Coffeehouse and I was reading stories about some of the other coffeehouses and their products and Banjo Coffee came up. I was reading in the blog where they were asked why they had selected Cafe Campesino coffees and talked about farmer stories. I said this is interesting, this seems like the type of thing we may be looking at for our concept. We went to the website and got to know Cafe Campesino and called. Tripp called me back pretty quickly and we decided to come down and visit the roastery and went over to the cafe as well and meet everybody and see what it’s all about. This is exactly who we want to be, we want to support people in South America. First and foremost. If we can bring products from there– wines, coffees, even our empanada dough we import from Argentina. After talking to Tripp and really understanding what Cafe Campesino is about, the relationship with the farmers and how it really helps the farmers down there, we really felt it’s the right thing to go with our concept. It aligned really well with our values and that is what we were looking for.
Eva: Tell me about your lead barista. She really loves coffee!
Robert: Nia! Once again, it was just, for us, we knew we needed to put a coffee program together. Keith and I didn’t know a lot about putting a coffee program together. In Americus, they helped us find the right machines and equipment, but the one piece we didn’t have was a recruiter. We posted on Zip Recruiter and Nia came up as one of the candidates. We interviewed four people and felt she was the right person. She communicated to us that she liked that we wanted to present the coffee correctly. To start with a great product, it doesn’t need a lot of additives to make it good, and it’s roasted well. We brought her in, we showed her how we set everything up after we talked to you guys. She said this is a barista area. She could see we were serious about putting together a program and we wanted to do it correctly and that is what inspired her to join our team. We’ve given her an opportunity to teach us how a coffee program should be. She’s done a great job presenting your coffee in the best light and I think your customers appreciate that as well.
If you are in Atlanta in the midtown area, go check out El Viñedo– you will not regret it. Try the arepas and a lovely espresso. And if you would like to try some other South American coffee, check out our 20% off sale running from now through Sunday night 7/11. Don’t forget to use coupon code SOUTHAM20 at check out!