Neighborhood Flavor profiles the people behind the familiar restaurants, bars and food businesses of the Eastside
El Sereno -- Luis Moreno comes from a family that knows coffee. Natives of El Salvador, his family members harvested coffee beans from that country's renown farms and plantations for decades before immigrating to the U.S. in the 1980s.
Now, Moreno, who grew up in East LA and Highland Park, has kept the family's coffee connection alive by opening Mobar Coffee on Huntington Drive.
After working as a barista, Moreno wanted to establish his own business, So, he started doing pop-up events, slowly building up the capital to finally open his shop on Huntington Drive, where his coffee comes directly from Salvadoran farmers.
As a way to help out other El Sereno businesses, Moreno founded and is also hosting the El Sereno Night Market every Wednesday on Huntington Drive.
Here’s what Moreno said about running his own business in the Q&A.
What's Mobar’s story? How did it come to be?
Back in 2016, I was dabbling in events. I can't say I was like doing catering, but I was definitely looking into it and experimenting with it. I was mainly bartending for weddings, parties.
Around that same time I started working at a coffee shop. I bought myself a little coffee machine and fused those two together, then just focused on beverage catering. That's kind of what we called it. My last name is Moreno, so it was like Moreno Bar. And that was kind of it.
What is the best part of owning your own business?
I know a big reason why I chose to [work on my own] is mainly because of my creativity. I did always feel a little restricted or bound when I was working with somebody else. I can't really breathe working for somebody else. They have to kind of do their own thing.
What is the most challenging part?
Creativity and freedom [laughs]. Not knowing when to turn it off.
Challenges besides existential stuff, like COVID, it's pleasing everybody. You definitely want your staff and your clients happy, but I also have a family. I have a son and trying to balance all of that is probably the most challenging.
How did you adapt to COVID?
A lot of events are going down. We did our last mobile-like event, probably April last year. We were forced to bunker down.
I think the pendulum has definitely swung the other way where people are realizing that small businesses are important. So we're getting a lot of support. I think in 2020, the phrase "support small business" was probably said more than like the last 10 years .
What is your favorite item on the menu of any of your restaurants?
We have a Golden Latte that is turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper.
It's a different kind of good. It's a savory good, not necessarily overly sweet and it's healthy. Tumeric and ginger naturally are like energy boosters so you get the caffeine high and then it gets sustained by power foods, which is crazy dope.
Can you share any tips or recipes for the readers?
I do encourage everybody to always learn to taste coffee. I drink black coffee 90% of the time. It's either drip or a cold brew.
It's really interesting to start teaching your taste palate to really find notes of different things in coffee, because there's so much in it. It's like a wine, in many ways. It's like whiskey. People get real down and nitty with extracting certain flavors, using different methods, different temperatures.
Coffee shouldn't be bitter, or acidic. You shouldn't need all this sugar and milk to make coffee taste good. It's already good.