1878 Euclid Ave. (at Hearst Avenue), Berkeley
Named after the small ranch where he was born in Chiapas, Mexico, Angel Rodriguez’s Cabañas Cafe, located inside the old Northside Cafe space across from the UC Berkeley campus, features such Mexican staples as molletes, tacos and quesadillas. But its newfangled kurtos, a chimney-shaped pastry with roots in Hungarian cuisine, are what Rodriguez hopes will make his new space a standout.
Derived from the Hungarian word “Kürtőskalács” which translates to “kiln cake” due to the pastry’s twisted, cylindrical appearance, the inspiration came from his restaurant’s cook, Oswaldo Escalante, who first served up kurtos at a taqueria in Tijuana.
“Kurtos are interesting and exciting because of the many ways they can be used,” Rodriguez explained. “They can be used in both sweet or savory dishes, as either open-faced sandwiches or stuffed sandwiches. At Cabañas Cafe we use kurtos for our French toast, stuff them with our chilaquiles or use them as a cone for our vegan ice cream.”
A note for kurtos seekers: this is the second Cabañas-monikered restaurant from this team. Rodriguez and the Vasquez family also own Las Cabañas Mexican Grill & Taqueria, at 1916 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley. That restaurant doesn’t currently offer the kurtos menu.
Cabañas Cafe prepares its kurtos from scratch: portioning out the dough, fermenting it, rolling it out and then baking them on traditional rotating chimney cake ovens for roughly six minutes until they achieve a golden hue with a flaky texture. Variations include pizza or avocado with egg, as well as sweet ones like the Queen of Cones (a cinnamon-sugar kurtos with ice cream, strawberries and cream) or Cookie Road (Oreos, chocolate chip cookie, bittersweet chocolate and caramel drizzle).
“It is a great challenge but I have faith that the people of Berkeley and beyond will slowly get to know more about our menu and appreciate kurtos as well,” Rodriguez said, noting that his restaurant will be the only place in the Bay Area where, at least for now, you can find kurtos like theirs.
In addition to an array of kurtos, Cabañas Cafe offers an all-day breakfast menu, coffee drinks, and asada fries (fries topped with chunks of steak, onion, cheese, and red salsa). For dessert, there are churros, malts and shakes (affogato, Kit Kat, and Oreo cookie are favorites) and ice cream (vanilla and chocolate, both of which are made vegan with coconut milk and tinged with cinnamon).
The new restaurant, which Rodriguez co-owns with husband-wife team Dogoberto and Lyliana Vasquez, opened in August following the height of the pandemic and the slow reopening of area businesses. “Opening a business during the pandemic is scary, but we have faith in God and in the quality of our food that we will succeed,” he said.
Look for the sign smackdab on the primo corner of Euclid and Hearst avenues, which tips its hat to Rodriguez’s hometown. “Cabañas is the name of a small ranch where I was born in Chiapas, Mexico known for its coffee and agriculture, which is why we have cabins and coffee leaves in our logo.”
Featured image: Kurtos as reimagined by Cabañas Cafe. Credit: Cabañas Cafe