From hosting events, to fundraising, to donating time and resources, Paola Guerrero Smith, long-time friend of PSH director Tab Barker and owner of Buenos Aires Café, has continuously and generously supported Project Schoolhouse for more than a decade. It is because of extraordinary people like her that Project School House has been able to achieve extraordinary results. This is the story of a fateful meeting, a lasting friendship and a shared commitment to positive change, one restaurant patron and one Nicaraguan village at a time.
Meet Argentinian Native Paola
Paola Guerrero Smith is the owner and operator of the successful Buenos Aires Café located at the corner of 6th and Waller in downtown Austin, Texas. The Buenos Aires Café, rich with an inspiring history and backed by a love of family, culture and good food, is known for its authentic Argentinian cuisine and impressive selection of Argentinian wines.
Paola is a bright light. Intelligent and passionate about her business, she exudes a contagious energy for life. The restaurant’s success is the direct result of her hard-work and steadfast commitment to creating an authentic dining experience for her customers and providing meals backed with tradition, infused with latin flair and consciously mixed with local Austin products.
“Paola is a dynamic wonderful woman with a big heart and a truly great restaurant.”
– Tab Barker of PSH
A native of Argentina, Paola immigrated with her family to the states in 1997 at the age of 15. Paola’s mother Reina started the restaurant in 2005. Paola watched her mother, driven by a love for authentic Argentinian food and culture, slowly turn a passionate hobby for pastry making into a career and then into a successful business. While Paola always worked with her mother through the years, it was in 2008 that she made a bigger commitment to the business.
A star-crossed connection
About the same time, Paola and her friends began following Ritmo Tres, a local Salsa band, and became acquainted with the band members. Paola remembers sharing a few dances, on multiple occasions, with one of the members in particular, a young man by the name of Tab Barker. “At the time I just thought, ‘Oh, he’s a nice guy and he’s a pretty good dancer,’” says Paola.
One day Paola and Tab ran into each other in the newly opened Buenos Aires Café on East 6th st. As Paola tells it, “One day, I walk into the restaurant for work and there is Tab. And we both kind of look at each other and I think, ‘wait, I know this guy.’ Next thing I know he says “Hey, what are you doing at my spot?” and I was like “what are you talking about your spot, I own this place.”
Tab had spent a year studying economics in Buenos Aires in 1997 and the steak sandwich served by the Buenos Aires Cafe was such a strong reminder of his time there that he started lunching at the cafe regularly. “Tab would come in all the time to eat so we got to talking more and more. When I found out about what he was doing in Nicaragua I just couldn’t believe that he was doing all these amazing things all by himself.”
Similarly, Tab was moved by Paola’s life story and inspired by her commitment to authentic Argentinian food. “I started going to that restaurant and I never stopped. I love that restaurant. That place is just like going to Buenos Aires. The Lomito is so perfectly done. . . And the pionono is a must try.”
A shared passion for positive change
Since their friendship began, Paola has contributed to PSH in many ways. In the early years, Paola frequently donated food to PSH fundraisers. One year, for her 30th birthday, she even hosted her own fundraising event and raised more than $4,000 in donations.
“I love the mission of Project Schoolhouse . . . [and] I love being able to be a part of positive change . . . The way I see it is, if I can help someone or make a difference for someone I will.”
Today Paolo donates the Milonga Room, a small bar with a separate entrance that is located below the Buenos Aires Café, for Project Schoolhouse events. The Milonga Room is open to the public on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6-12pm typically by reservation only.
It holds special significance for Paola because it is a personal project that she embarked upon with her husband years after the restaurant had been in service. “One thing I really love about the Milonga Room is that I always loved that I got to work with my mom and that we had this family business but I never thought that my husband would be a part of it in such an integral way. The Milonga Room is a really special thing that we were able to do together.”
If you’d like to make a reservation at the Milonga Room text 512-593-1920 to make a reservation for Thursday through Saturday. If you’d like to learn more about Project Schoolhouse, you can rsvp for our upcoming information events here. Our next events are March 22 and June 12th. We’d love to meet you.