While there are coffee shops near East Liberty -- Voluto, in Garfield; Starbucks in "Eastside"; Coffee Tree Roasters in Larimer's Bakery Square development -- and a newly opened bean roasters on Penn, a full-service café has been lacking in the neighborhood proper for some time. Kazanda Tamo changed that by opening Kazanda's Café, a coffee shop and soup-and-sandwich lunch spot on Penn Avenue next to the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.
The café, which held its grand opening July 9, features mostly standard coffee-shop fare (espresso drinks, smoothies), but adds an element of Haitian culture. Tamo was born in Haiti, though her family immigrated to the United States when she was young. Specialties from Haitian cuisine -- spicy Creole chicken sandwich, Haitian black-bean soup, ginger juice -- make up some of the café's best-selling items, she says.
The shop's coffee also comes from Haiti, through a direct-trade system that allows Tamo to know exactly what Haitian farms the beans originate from.
"I wanted to start with Brazilian coffee, but then last year, we had the earthquake in Haiti," explains Tamo, who still has family on the island. "I thought, why not serve my own coffee from home? I think that's a better way to help than just sending money."
Tamo says the weekday lunch crowd keeps the café busiest, but she plans to have events in the future -- like drumming performances on second Saturdays -- to bolster the weekend crowd.
5943 Penn Ave., East Liberty. 412-361-2200. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m.