Mocha Mocha
By Sue Nador

From Humble Beginnings to Cornucopia

Mercedes Tripkovic and her husband Mana had modest aspirations for the café they opened at Danforth and Logan in 1991. Mercedes explains, “We called it Mocha Mocha because it originally was going to be a small coffee shop with just mocha cake and coffee.”

To Mercedes' surprise, their initial menu quickly grew. “We started small but there was a demand for more items,” she explains. “So we said, why don’t we add sandwiches?” She motions animatedly to the cornucopia of food behind a long glass counter to demonstrate how coffee, mocha cake and sandwiches are just the beginning.

Mercedes and Mana brought extensive experience to their new venture. After marrying in Peru (Mercedes’ home country), they opened a restaurant there specializing in crepes. Mercedes recalls, “Mana was the cook and I was the front of the house.” After moving to Canada in 1982, Mana managed restaurant franchises and Mercedes worked as a station chef at Movenpick-Yorkville. One day, Mana said to Mercedes, “You're working too hard. Why don’t we open a small café?”

We started small but there was a demand for more items. - Mercedes Tripkovic, owner
Owner Mercedes Tripkovic says the menu is created with input from customers and staff.

A Neighbourhood on the Rise

Opening Mocha Mocha in Riverdale was an easy decision. “We lived in the neighbourhood and we like this area very much,” says Mercedes. She recalls that back in the early 1990s, “it was all Greek restaurants around us.” Today Mocha Mocha’s neighbours circle the globe — Italian, Mexican and Caribbean cuisine are a few of the many options. Mercedes credits the local business association for how much the neighbourhood has changed. “The community is better and there are more younger families.”

Mocha Mocha bustles from opening to closing. Mercedes says that the clientele is mostly women who work or live in the neighbourhood. One of her elderly clients used to come with her husband until he passed away, and then continued to come alone. “People feel comfortable coming here by themselves,” she realizes. When this elderly client also passed away, her family held the funeral reception at Mocha Mocha. “It was her favourite place,” says Mercedes, “and we were really touched.”

Diversity in Food and People

The most popular items at Mocha Mocha are the BLT-avocado, brown rice salad and fiesta platter (scrambled eggs, refried beans, spicy tomato sauce, greens, flour tortilla and half an avocado.) In the early days, the menu also featured quinoa soup. Laughing, Mercedes recalls, “People would ask, ‘What is that?’ because nobody used quinoa. Now everyone uses quinoa.”

The diverse staff, many of whom come from Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia, play a hand in menu development. “I’m open to suggestions,” says Mercedes. “They taught me how to make Ethiopian chicken stew. We toned it down a little bit because theirs is really spicy.” Customer feedback also shapes the menu. “If customers loved a special of the day, we would introduce it as a regular item, like our vegetarian crepe.”

Customers love Mocha Mocha because they can depend on the quality of their favourite dishes. Mercedes points out, “As long as you give good quality and service, people will come. It gives us pleasure to see our customers happy and satisfied.”

Photo courtesy of Mocha Mocha
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