The Cafe Jumping Bean, located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, strives to keep the art scene alive for the neighborhood residents.
Owner Eleazar Delgado opened the cafe’s doors in 1994 when he was only a 26-year-old, but even at such a young age, Delgado had a vision for what he wanted.
“My brother was an artist and hung around other artists. They were the influence of showing art here.”
Delgado said the neighborhood needed a distinctive cafe that blended art and cuisine.
“Back in the day, there wasn’t a cafe south of Division Street,” Delgado said.
Unlike many of the traditional Mexican taquerias in Pilsen, Cafe Jumping Bean serves healthy sandwiches, soups, salads and coffee specialties, bringing a culinary twist to the neighborhood.
Felipe Macias, a cafe regular who lives in Pilsen, said he keeps coming back for his favorite drink, the Choco Espresso, which is a traditional Latino version of hot chocolate and a shot of espresso.
“Lots of Latinos grow up on Abuelita, it’s like a Latin version of hot chocolate, so it’s cool that they made it into a coffee drink. You can’t find that anywhere else,” Macias said.
But Macias appreciates more than just the food and drink. He also comes back for the friendly and cultural atmosphere.
“The staff here is chill, they get to know us personally, and what they do here is important,” Macias said.
“It’s always good to expose people to art, and I think they do a great job here.”
Although the cafe found success, the road was not without obstacles.
“Twenty-one years ago, people thought I was crazy,” Delgado said. “For seven years it was constant work, I wanted it to stop. After that, it took off.”
Deanndrea Kelley, a business student studying fashion, said she appreciates what the Cafe Jumping Bean has done for local artists.
“They’re giving artists a chance to put their art work out there and get some recognition,” Kelley said.
“In Chicago, that’s so important because there are so many artists. This place gets nothing but respect for that.”
Delgado said the gallery rotates art shows every five weeks with different art forms being accepted. Artists of all sorts are welcome to email resumes and work samples to the restaurant for upcoming shows, which vary and include one children’s art show every year.
The process has become very competitive and Delgado said they have been booked solid for all of 2015 since February.
Pilsen is known for its mural-dominated art scene many of which are inspired by Latino cultural references and the neighborhood is home to the largest Latino museum in the state.
Delgado said tourists come to Pilsen just for the art scene.
“There was the mural movement and Chicano movement. The people’s protest was their art,” Delgado said.
“It’s exciting to see local artists bring their families and friends here because it’s their first time showing their art,” Delgado said.
“It’s been a great learning experience, and I continue to learn.”