Dope Drip Café

David Silva Website
Food & Beverage
Garfield Park, Chicago, IL
Services utilized:
Grants, Group Coaching, Kitchen Space, Loans

Growing up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park, Dope Drip Café owner David Silva had a vibrant, yet challenging, upbringing.

“Although I was a troubled youth, I always liked cooking,” said David. At a young age, David became involved in a gang. “It wasn’t easy growing up on the West Side. I got involved because that’s all I had seen. It was all around me,” he said.

In 2014, after years spent in and out of jail, David faced a possible lifetime sentence. When David was acquitted, he knew it was time for change.

“I’m thankful for going to jail,” said David. “I changed my ways and realized that I was the problem.”

After his acquittal, David worked in kitchens learning back-end restaurant operations.

In 2020, David lost his job during the pandemic. Needing to support his family, David transformed his childhood love for cooking into a business opportunity and developed his trademarked “Tamafongo,” a tamale that uses the Puerto Rican plantain dish mofongo instead of the traditional corn masa.

“I would pass out Tamafongo to some of my friends, some of the homeless people,” David said. “I was really just trying to perfect my craft.”

After perfecting his recipe, David and his wife opened Dope Drip Café in 2020, a café and catering company offering traditional Puerto Rican cuisine alongside the innovative Tamafongo. A year after opening, Dope Drip Café moved into a private kitchen space at The Hatchery where they continue to operate today.

Through The Hatchery, David connected with A4CB. In 2022, he received an A4CB small business loan, which he used to pay employees and pay off business credit card debt.

“I was approved for $2,500 which in business [can be] minimal, but [for me it] was a lifeline,” said David.

In 2023, David participated in A4CB’s Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab (NEL), a business accelerator program that also provides participants with a $20,000 grant. “When I was accepted, it was money driven,” said David. “But the knowledge, the connections, and the experience I got ended up being worth way more than the money.”

At the same time, David participated in the Impacto Hispanic Business Accelerator, a PepsiCo Foundation program with nonprofit partners including A4CB. Through the Impacto program, David received a $10,000 grant and participated in a 6-week coaching intensive program.

Through these programs, David learned about business accounting and developed a pitch to get Dope Drip Café into food halls. The pitch and grant funds allowed David to secure a second location in Washington Hall, the largest food hall in Chicago’s downtown Loop. With this business growth, David was able to secure a line of credit for $25,000 from A4CB.

Now that entrepreneurship has transformed David’s life, he wants to provide opportunity to other West Side residents. “[I want to] start in the same neighborhood that I came from,” said David. “I want to be able to give people a chance [by] giving them a job. At the end of the day, I’m nothing without my team.”

Beyond job creation, David also hopes to use his platform to create positive change for future generations by providing free cooking classes to local youth and starting a podcast on entrepreneurship. “I want to be able to help those kids that are out there like I was. If you don’t see better, you don’t know better,” said David. “I want to shine a light on the positive.”