First date, blind date, lunch date, any date for that matter Anepalco’s Café is phucking spot on for those seeking good, inventive, and humbly-proud food.
It was several months ago when the nefariously salacious LGFats and I finally went into Anepalco’s Café on Main Street at Stewart.
It was probably a Saturday and LGFats and I were probably on our way to Hollingshead. Such is the memory of a white-trash-high-priest-alkie: I’ll be the first to chirp up that Hollingshead calls last call when they call, that last call is usually around 7pm, and that they’re not open on Saturday or Sunday.
So when we rolled upon our shuttered watering hole I was at a loss and desultorily stared at their hours of op sign, wondering what to do next. We may have decided to head back down South Main way, pick up a bottle of corner shop piss, and settle in for another evening of sordid but low-key debauchery at the five-oh-no-two, but (and here is another attempt for this white-trash-high-priest to recall something) memory and fate whisper otherwise. We made it as far as Stewart and Main when I raised my finger and pointed diagonally across the street. “Best coffee in town my ass. Let’s try the place.”
I had ridden past it several times before always sneering at the “Best Coffee in Town” claim plastered on their window. I loathe such claims.
An overly smiley curly haired dude greets me. I look at the hand-written menu and tell him we want to sit outside. I don’t tell him that I can’t stand fluorescent lights (by which this fine little Café is, unfortunately, lit). He says he’ll bring over some menus.
Then I find out from the server that the owner and chef are the same person and that he makes everything himself and with great care—music to my salty-whore ears. I say, “In that case, I’ll have whatever he recommends.”
I now can’t remember what that was exactly. It might have been the enchiladas or one of the sandwiches. I’ve been back many times since that first experience, I’ve tried different dishes (slowly working my way through the menu), and have not been disappointed…well ok, maybe only once.
Despite my own one disappointing experience, I am convinced that Anepalco’s Café is one of Main Street’s best establishments.
Up front I’ll put my cards right on the table:
1) I tend to really dig owner-ops; nothing better than seeing the visionary scurry to and fro to keep the dream alive (as is the case at Anepalco’s Café, Lucca, or Lola Gaspar, for example)
2) Having the chef and owner be one in the same, and having that owner-chef come out and talk to me every time I hit up said establishment really (really) gets my juices flowin’
3) When the owner-chef explains in varying degree of detail what went into making the plate of madness I have before me I am, by this point, a hands down devotee
4) And: When the owner-chef of said establishment says something like, “Yes, some have called the style of food we serve here Mexican…but it’s not Mexican, it is global. I’ve worked in different kitchens and my menu reflects those influences,” I’m tickled absolutely pink.
My full deck: Danny, the chef and owner of Anepalco’s Café, is doing something really quite unique on Main Street and he doesn’t charge you all of your blow money to be a part of it.
Take for example the Enchiladas: A great representation of a classic dish with some inventive twists. They come chicken and pork in a non-traditional “red sauce.” The red sauce is actually a sun-dried tomato puree meant to accent the bed of flavors that lay atop it, not drown the rolled tortillas in some skanky and bland sauce that is “red.” The cotija cheese, pico de gallo, cabbage, sour cream, and avocado mousse are all piled high on the enchiladas in a marriage of supporting flavors and textures. I cannot order this plate without not finishing it (even when my hunger has long been satisfied).
Consider any number of the sandwiches:
Colorado Chicken Sandwich that is a splendid and flavorful presentation of chicken breast, Danny’s red sauce, and chipotle aioli. Yeah.
The Anepalco complete with slow-cooked pork, achiote, and cabbage relish.
The Tuna Sandwich made with handmade mayo, grapes, lime zest, and red onions all on hearty sourdough. I’m really into Tuna. ☺ Danny’s Tuna Sandwich is quite good.
The Cuban Sandwich is decadently, deliciously, and undoubtedly awesome: chicken, slow-cooked pork, ham, mozza cheese, cabbage, and chipotle aioli all on a ciabatta. W.T.F. For eight phreakin’ bucks this sandwich by others cannot be beat. Punkt.
Or, the salads: Very soon I’ll try the Anepalco’s Spring Salad but I just had the “Main Street” Salad yesterday. It is a mountain of spinach tossed in date dressing, sprinkled with dry-roasted peanuts, some cheese, and finely julienned apples. (Go vegan and order it without the cheese.) The date dressing is an example of Danny’s creative hand. After a three-hour process dates and balsamic vinegar are reduced down to a concentrated thick base; he then adds some evoo (and etc) and commences to puree.
Danny will happily admit that he has a problem: He loves to puree.
His red sauce, avocado mousse, date dressing, handmade mayo, pesto and chipotle aiolis, and his fantastic soups are all evidence of this deep-seated problem. And I? I am the drooling victim of this man’s delinquent behavior. Even his pico de gallo is evidence of his puree fetish. While the pico de gallo is not pureed it is some of the finest chopped de gallo I’ve ever put in my mug: the fineness of the chopping marries the flavors one to the other resulting in a beautifully blended cohesive palette experience reminiscent of coked-out hooker gnomes in a mossy forest. (That’s a good thing.) Danny points this out to me—not the gnome part, but the intentional fineness of chopping.
I’ve not tried Danny’s breakfasts, but after telling Memphis’ own Julio about Danny and Anepalco, Julio headed on over one morning and had the Chilaquiles then reported back: excellent.
And the coffee: they serve up a pretty decent cup. Just as quickly as it seems to have been written, yesterday I was able to blow through 20 or so pages of Butler’s GT because of it (the coffee).
At Anepalco’s Café I can hardly go wrong. And the one time I was disappointed with a sandwich, it’s only because I’m an ass who was expecting the full-on heart-stoppingness of a Croque Monsieur, and got instead a subdued version of this Parisian decadent delight.
Place your trust in the Master of Mousse Danny over at Anepalco’s Café. Then, if it’s not the weekend, head over to Hollingshead for some good beer. Then, if you haven’t drunk yourself into too much of a stupor and if you’re anything like me, score some blow and gnomes with the money left over.
Anepalco’s Cafe, 415 South Main Street, Orange, CA. (714) 771-2333. CC accepted. No alcohol served. Breakfast served all day. Meet the man who makes your food, ask to thank Danny for whatever wonders you put in your mouth. Oh yeah, and don’t subject yourself to those fluorescent lights either, sit outside.