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Chocolate Drinks, Coffee and More at Quimbaya's

OSSINING, N.Y. -- After working for other people's restaurants for 12 years, Alfredo Uscanga, owner of Picante Quimbaya's cafe, loves having his own place.

"Other people always rush me, go do this, go do that," he said. "Now I can make everything nice, relax with my time," he said.

Uscanga cooked Italian food for Amalfi Restaurant and Torchia's Ristorante in Briarcliff, and Spaccarelli's Ristorante in Millwood before opening up Quimbaya's at 193 Main St. in 2006.

Known for its Colombian coffee and hot chocolates, Quimbaya's was inspired by Uscanga's brother-in-law who owns a coffee farm in Quimbaya, Colombia. Quimbaya's imports all its coffee from the Colombian mountain farm and sells it in up to five-pound bags at the café.

For iced coffee drinks, Uscanga's secret is that he uses iced coffee cubes instead of regular iced cubes.

"That's my own idea, to use special ice coffee cubes," he said. "It gives the drink a lot more flavor."

Uscanga also imports unsweetened cacao and panela, a brown sugar that comes in block form, from Colombia. His chocolate drink menu includes about 10 different types of hot and cold chocolate.

"I love chocolate, that's why," he said.

For his favorite "special" hot chocolate, Uscanga boils unsweetened cacao and panela together for about 10 minutes, and then adds milk, cloves and cinnamon.

Over the years, Uscanga has expanded his menu from coffee, empanadas and a couple pieces of bread to include many fresh juices with healthy names like "The Cholesterol Buster" and "Anti Oxidant," as well as chocolate drinks, ice cream, sandwiches, wraps and salads.

"We're now Picante Quimbaya's because of the Mexican sandwiches and salads," he said.

Uscanga is originally from Vera Cruz, Mexico, a port city along the Gulf of Mexico. He immigrated to the US about 18 years ago and worked hard in restaurants for many years doing everything from washing dishes to cooking to serving drinks at the bar.

With his own business, Uscanga said he makes more money and works about a quarter as hard.

"The only thing is I have to get up very early in the morning," he said.

Uscanga makes corn cakes called arepas, cheese bread, known as pan de bono, and croissants every day starting at 5 a.m. His wife, Lili Garza, also works behind the counter making drinks and food and serving customers.

Picante Quimbaya's is open daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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