Peace Nation Café serves up organic Guatemalan-American cuisine in Midtown Kingston

It’s a modest establishment, this down-to-earth café on Broadway in Kingston that specializes in Guatemalan-American cuisine. Opened nearly three years ago by Noe Delcid and his partner Ewelina, the kitchen’s steady production of Latin-based dishes using fresh ingredients has garnered a following. The fact that Peace Nation was originally meant to be a tee-shirt shop is beside the point now (although patrons can find a shelf of them and other natural-fiber items near the end of the counter).

Striving to bring organically grown plant-based foods and hormone-free meats to the local population is the goal. “Everyone cares about the environment these days, and plant-based foods are the most friendly for the environment. In Midtown Kingston, where being vegan or vegetarian is a relatively new thing, I want to serve food that local people can buy. We have a separate vegan menu, and we do like to cater to that market. Our biggest challenge has been to carry this food while maintaining prices under $13 per dish.”

Delcid explains that the cost of food supplies should typically be around 33 percent of the menu price. “Some places have higher or lower margins. In the beginning, we said, ‘Let’s just start with low prices and good-quality ingredients. See where our sales are at and go from there.’ We get people in who don’t live in Kingston, but a lot of locals, too.” His business training is all about life experience, having worked under a French chef while still in high school, helping out with his parents’ business, and owning a restaurant and bakery when he was 26 years old. 

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Coming to Kingston from Westchester was serendipitous. “I chose Kingston and Kingston chose me. I attended SUNY-New Paltz and did like living up here. The Peace Nation brand got started when I was selling tee-shirts in 2012. I was looking to expand and found Kingston because of its affordability, compared to rents at 10-to-15 grand downstate. This building was the third place we bid on. I wasn’t planning a café per se, but it came with this [kitchen] setup, so I decided to merge all the things I was doing already: eating good, healthy organic food. I had restaurant experience. I like to work with my hands; we remodeled most of this place ourselves. It came out better than I had envisioned it.”

Renovation involved removing the dropped ceiling and booths, installing LED spotlights: They give the space that galleryesque feeling for the paintings along the walls. Every first Saturday of the month, the work of local artists is celebrated. Peace Nation occasionally hosts live music and other special events.

“We’re trying to create a business model that cares not just about profit. It’s important for the health of a company to generate profit, but also to incorporate two factors that are mostly neglected: the environment and the people, meaning the employees and other stakeholders, such as whom we source our food from. We’re supporting the local economy.

“We’re concerned about where our waste goes, so we compost. Our lights are powered by wind farms from upstate. We pay a little more, but I think it’s worth it. We use plastics made from corn, so all our to-go containers are biodegradable. There are a lot of new companies coming up with great ideas, and I think it’s important to support them. Cups and straws made from plants cost more than traditional materials, but I said, ‘Let’s set it up and do the best we can. If it doesn’t work, we’ll adjust.’”

Delcid comes from hardworking, close-to-the-Earth people himself. “My dad left the farm to go into the city, but that’s what he was doing: milking the cows at 5 a.m. My parents’ families were farming families. One of my grandmas sold tortillas to raise her kids. On my mom’s side, my grandma sewed clothes to raise her kids. Now I’m selling hemp shirts and good food – like both my grandmas.”

When asked about this inherited work ethic, he says, “My parents taught me all the things I know. They came here with not much, not speaking any English, and they made something of themselves. I’ve seen what is possible with hard work and dedication and some sacrifice.”

As for his philosophical bent, he says, “You grow up and develop a worldview, and also a galactic view: to appreciate our place where Earth is in the universe. You realize our limited time here is so precious – 90 years if we’re lucky – and we should really just love each other. Earth is the only place we have. So why not cherish and respect it, take care of it and each other?”

And while you’re here, why not enjoy fresh entrées and à la carte options, such as pupusas and carne asada and garnachas and tacos and chilaquiles, with gluten-free handmade tortillas and lots more. “I highly recommend our Peace Burger: It tastes like a real burger, without the negative effects on the carbon footprint.”

For catering, e-mail peacenationcafe@gmail.com.

Peace Nation Café, Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., 636 Broadway, Kingston; (845) 514-2561; www.peacenationcafe.com.

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