Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on March 7, 2023.
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In early 2023, the Honduran coffee shop, Cafetano, rebranded as Soluna Coffee & Mezcal Bar. The coffee shop portion of the restaurant operates similarly to the former concept plus the addition of night time libations and food in the backroom Mezcal bar. We visited the coffee shop when it was Cafetano and revisited Soluna for the mezcal bar shortly after opening.
When we found out the Honduran coffee shop Soluna (formerly Cafetano) was opening in the former Gaucho space in the Strip District, we weren't entirely sure what to think of it. This had nothing to do with the coffee shop itself (we will never say no to more amazing coffee in Pittsburgh), but rather the use of the space outright.
By Strip District standards, Gaucho had one of the larger building footprints in the neighborhood and, when it comes to coffee shops, we're not used to seeing any of that size anywhere in the city. So hearing that a coffee shop was moving into this particular space was a bit of a surprise.
Thankfully, their wonderful coffee shop offered a hard reminder how much good space in coffee shops is sorely needed, and when this one rebranded as Soluna in 2023 to also incorporate a late-night mezcal bar in the back, we saw the perfect utilization of this space all around.
So whether you visit Soluna for their delicious coffee and small plates during the day, or for a Mezcal cocktail and more unique food in the evening, you really have several reasons to visit this gem in the Strip District!
Soluna Offers a Welcoming Space and Delicious Coffee
When you visit Soluna, you'll do well to check out every inch of the space. Artwork adorns the walls, tables, and even the ceilings as well. Couple that with bright light, comfortable furniture, and seating arrangements of just about every style imaginable, and you have the kind of space that you could hang out and work in just as much as stopping for a quick espresso or latte. (For those who have less time, they also have a walk-up window for to-go orders.)
While this shop specializes in Honduran beans, the menu goes well beyond conventional coffees with hot chocolate, tea, frappes, smoothies, and more. On our first visit, we opted for the classic espresso as well as a properly made macchiato and really appreciate the complexity of the flavors offered here and the fact that the roast was more on the light-to-medium side as well.
Suffice it to say, we left with a bag of beans as well to start making their coffee at home as this one makes us want to go deeper into the world of Honduran coffees.
Don't Forget a Panini When Visiting
As mentioned at the start of this article, Soluna is far more than a coffee shop- it is a complete cafe experience. Beyond beverages, they have a rather robust food menu of croissants, paninis, wraps, salads, waffles, breakfasts, toasts, and more. So if you think ordering food is going to be any easier than ordering a beverage, well, be prepared to have some options to consider.
During our first visit, we opted to hit the panini side of the menu and go for two that are going to become instant classics- El Catracho and El Picante. These were two fairly large sandwiches that did not leave us wanting more.
El Catracho is the shop's take on a conventional egg and avocado sandwich but with a Honduran twist thanks to the addition of spicy fried beans, crema, and queso fresco. It was quite rich and the crema and queso fresco offered a nice contrast to the otherwise savory ingredients.
El Picante, on the other hand, was a bit simpler and simply topped with roasted turkey, pepper jack, and a slathering of spicy pineapple chutney. If you are fans of messy sandwiches, this one doesn't disappoint as the pineapple chutney ended up getting just about everywhere by the time we were done eating it. We're not sure we've ever had turkey and pineapple together in a single bite, but with the slightly spicy note from the sauce and the cheese, this one worked nicely.
We finished the meal with a refreshing little lemon tart as well that helped bring our palates back after the decadent sandwiches. This one was on the smaller side as far as tarts are concerned, but after the massive sandwiches half of one of these really was about all the room we had left.
A Night Visit to the Mezcal Bar is a Must
As mentioned above, in early 2023, Soluna rebranded to add a mezcal bar in the back room of the space with an impressive assortment of mezcal bottles, cocktails, and other creations featuring unique spirits from Mexico, South America, and beyond (so although the cocktail menu is indeed mezcal heavy, this one has something for everyone).
During our first visit, we got to try three cocktails- the Hot Metal Bridge (mezcal with agave, lime, passion fruit, ginger, cucumber, and chili powder), the Morenamia (mezcal with fig, puffed rice, and green tea), and their take on a mezcal Old Fashioned.
What we really loved about these cocktails in general was that they had an intensity of flavor from all of the supplemental ingredients (passion fruit, fig, etc.) while still letting the mezcal be the star without being overpowering. We know that the smokiness of some mezcal can be overpowering even at the best attempts of a cocktail, so we were pleasantly surprised to have three solid drinks that kept in check all the same.
Now to return to try some mezcal straight-up and a few tequila and singani-based creations, too!
Much like the coffee shop in the front of the building, Soluna also offers a night-time small plates menu with the likes of tortilla soup, ceviche de cangrejo, chile rellenos, and cerdo al pastor gracing the menu to name a few.
As during our first stop we primarily stopped for drinks, we only had the chance to sample the ceviche during our visit. this one had an impressive amount of lump crab meat marinated in grapefruit and lime juice with apple and avocado slices and a side of tostadas for dipping. As these are considered small plates, we could easily have downed two more for a full meal, but appreciated that this one was large enough for a decent snack for two as a compliment for the drinks.
Much like our planned return to try more cocktails, we will be hitting up a few more of the small plate options as well as our interest most certainly has been piqued!
Overall, Soluna has hit the ground running with some delightful coffees, night-time mezcal drinks, and a fairly strong food menu focusing on small plates. But while we'll talk about these again and again, we can't help but also point out that the space at this one is just as wonderful as the coffee, food, and cocktails. This is a hard trifecta to pull off- but Soluna did it perfectly.
Soluna is located at 1601 Penn Avenue in the Strip District.
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