There’s a family that comes to Ridgewood’s Café Esencia every week and orders the eight dollar, six-foot long churro, which is wrapped in an elegant coiled swirl, center-pieced by a cup of sugar.
It is crafted elegantly by order, per the instructions of owner Andrés Castelló, who set out to evoke the distantly sunny past of southern Spain (particularly the mythic pre-Inquisition “La Convivencia” period; per the Café’s Kickstarter campaign: a place where “three great cultures coexisted…leading to an awesome flourishing of flavors, aromas, and essences.”) Historic particularity matters less than quality, and his churros are among the best in the city.
They can be purchased in a variety of sizes and even its largest snake-sized portion—Bushwick Daily was worriedly assured that this was not for one person can be acquired for under ten dollars, making the recently opened Café part of the wave of cheap eats that have thankfully always been a part of Ridgewood.
It’s a welcome addition. But the fluffy delight, so light that the sourdough and sugar melt together in your mouth, almost impossible to eat anything less than—yes, I’ll put the rest in a box, okay! I would easily pay double for these fresh, tender wheels.
It is a sun-filled weekend rest stop, with large cast-iron windows that let the light in and outdoor seating available. It has also begun to expand its menu into the territory of lunch and early dinner, with egg sandwiches, glistening bacon and a single salad abundant in fruit and nuts.
Its most ambitious moves have been with the espresso machine, where options such as café con leche and rose-flavored lattes are offered, along with the seasonal stuff of a maple-flavored latte that is enthusiastically decorated by painfully sincere latte artists. The rose flavor is of particular note, neither sticky sweet nor fashionably bitter. It is party to the light-as-air churros, and the natural light that bounces off the walls while drinking it is an experience of elegance.
Like people, cafés are islands in the sea of noise, and it is good and well that these abandoned buildings now host some of the best food in the city, an archipelago of artisanal effects that includes its best-named hipster pizza joint (the Michelin-ranked Houdini Kitchen Laboratory) to Queens’ only appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (ditto, Bunker).
Café Esencia fits in among these but is, for now at any rate, both cheaper and less crowded and closer to the M train, soon to be among the region’s few links to the outside world.
Make a beeline.
Cover photo courtesy of Andrew Karpan