A large assortment of croissants, tarts, cookies and pastries greet customers at Viva Itacate Bakery and Caf. The baked delights include coronitas, a fried croissant filled and topped with dulce de leche, a Mexican caramel; Mexican wedding shortbread cookies made with ground pecans and covered in cinnamon and sugar; and a moist corn cake from a 100-year-old family recipe.

The restaurant started in Tampico, Mexico, 33 years ago by Sara Guerrero's family. She and her husband, Howard Corcoran, helped run the family's four restaurants in Mexico before starting the cafe in The Woodlands more than two years ago.

Viva Itacate serves Mexican food with a French influence, including quiche and fruit tarts.

"There's a lot of European influence in that region of Mexico and in our cafe," Corcoran said.

The food at Viva Itacate is created from family recipes, Corcoran said.

"The corn cake recipe is from Sara's great-grandmother, and the other recipes are from her aunts and grandmother and family friends," Corcoran said.

In addition to the desserts, the restaurant serves authentic, fresh breakfast and lunch, including migadas, a tostada-type dish served on a homemade corn tortilla and served with pork, beef or chicken, topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, cream and cheese. A lunch favorite is the torta de la barda—a sandwich with pork, beef or chicken and topped with avocado, tomatoes and onions.

The cafe makes its food in small batches, including its salsa and corn tortillas that are made fresh daily. Viva Itacate does not use any preservatives.

"The salsa is made with habaneros and tomatoes that are roasted first on the grill," Corcoran said.

The meat served at the cafe is slow-roasted for flavor.

"The pork cochinta is slow-roasted for six to eight hours in banana leaves, fresh orange juice, garlic, onion and achiote seed," Corcoran said.

The restaurant is a hidden treasure, located in the middle of an expansive strip center off Sawdust Road. The cafe offers a quiet and relaxing ambience, with a dozen tables in a small dining area painted in warm, earthy yellow and maroon tones.

The cafe doubled its space more than a year ago to 2,200 square feet and can now more easily seat small parties meeting at the restaurant for occasions such as birthday celebrations, Bible studies or business meetings, Corcoran said.

Viva Itacate prides itself on customer service and has many loyal, return customers, Corcoran said.

The cafe offers catering and will prepare trays of pastries in smaller sizes for parties.

Guerrero, who is an artist and graphic designer, also makes and sells a large selection of specialized cakes. The bakery also sells empanadas, quiches and homemade soups daily.

The coffee served at the cafe is a special blend of Mexican beans created specifically for Viva Itacate.

Customer favorites:

Chilaquiles–corn tortillas and slow-cooked chicken in a homemade tomato sauce, topped with avocado, served with black beans and eggs ($6.75)

Migadas–a tostada-type entree served on a homemade corn tortilla and served with pork, beef or chicken, and served with lettuce, tomato, onions, cream and cheese ($7.50)

Torta de la Barda–sandwich with pork, beef or chicken and topped with avocado, tomatoes and onions and served with spicy carrots. ($7.25)

Tamales–filled with chicken or pork and cooked wrapped in banana leaves, served with a side of beans and cheese. ($3.25/ea.)

Pies and holiday goods

The bakery offers a large selection of pies for Thanksgiving and holidays and stays open late on Wednesday, Nov. 27 until 7 p.m.




Peanut butter



Holiday goods:

Pumpkin bread



Sweet breads

Tarts and eclairs

Holiday cookies are also available including gingerbread, Mexican wedding cookies and Christmas cut-out cookies in various shapes including Santa, candy canes and Christmas trees.

Viva Itacate Bakery & Cafe, 544 Sawdust Road, The Woodlands, 281-298-7377

www.vivaitacate.com, Hours: Tue.–Sat. 8 a.m.–3 p.m.

Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m.