Tigard small business program boosts new café El Cuadrilátero

Israel Martinez pours fresh coffee beans into a grinder.
Israel Martinez pours fresh coffee beans into a grinder. Martinez plans to open his new cafe, El Cuadrilátero, the first weekend in October in the lobby at the Tigard Public Library. Josh Kulla/Tigard Life

It’s been several years since the Tigard Library last hosted a café, but for library patrons and even passersby, the wait for a replacement is now over. 

El Cuadrilátero Cafe, a new coffee and sandwich bar run by local resident Israel Martinez, opened for business over the weekend of Oct. 2-3, and will be slowly ramping up service ahead of a planned Nov. 1 grand opening. Located near the entrance of the Tigard Library in a ready-made space designed for food service, El Cuadrilátero is a venture made possible by a partnership between the City of Tigard and the Portland-based group Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO) called the Opportunity Cafe. 

MESO is a community development financial institution that provides access to funding for entrepreneurs from underserved communities including people of color, veterans, and low-income small business owners. The group provides low-interest loans, as well as business coaching and training for new business owners to help get their businesses established. 

The city, meanwhile, provides the space in which to run their business. The 400-square foot micro café at the library is a key asset that goes a long way toward reducing start-up costs and giving entrepreneurs like Martinez a chance to thrive. 

For Martinez, who has 15-years of experience working in restaurants, the chance to finally run his own food service business is something he has looked forward to for a long time. 

“This is the first time I’ve run a business,” Martinez said. “I was looking for a business opportunity for a long time, and I finally got one. I wanted to run a restaurant, but this came up.” 

The name El Cuadrilátero, or quadrilateral in English, is a Spanish term for a boxing or wrestling ring. Because Martinez is a fan of ‘lucha libre,’ or Mexican professional wrestling, he has decorated his new space with the distinctive colorful leather masks favored by the sport’s competitors. Meanwhile, the café’s logo features a colorful wrestler flexing his muscles from the ring. 

Martinez says he is looking forward to being a business owner and is grateful for the help of MESO and the city. 

“They give me advice, they check everything for me, and right now they are helping me with the coffee, and what I need, like the supplies and the business application,” Martinez said, adding that this has made the process much easier than it would have been doing everything himself. 

Israel Martinez shows off a plate of homemade flan.
Israel Martinez shows off a plate of homemade flan, a custard like desert crafted from eggs and cream that can be served with a nearly endless variety of toppings. Josh Kulla/Tigard Life

Martinez, who moved to the United States in 2006, loves to cook at home and plans to bring a personal favorite dessert – Mexican flan – to El Cuadrilátero. The word flan comes from an old High German word for “flat cake.” Traditionally, flan consists of eggs, dairy, and sugar, making it essentially a custard.

When flan first was introduced to Mexico, ovens were still rare, and it was often cooked using a stovetop method. This influenced the development of a distinct, Mexican variety, which is often paired with vanilla flavoring. 

“The challenge right now will be to get everything as organized as I can,” Martinez said. “There are a lot of things to understand.” 

He’s taken classes to learn more about coffee and how espresso is prepared and served. He added that, depending on how business shapes up over the first couple of months, he may hire one or more employees, preferably with previous experience in the coffee world. 

“I think a lot of people will want to come by,” he says.