Abigail Koffler

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Cafe Esencia, a mediterranean churro café inspired by the rich food culture of La Convivencia in Ridgewood, will launch weekend dinner service, featuring tapas and an affordable selection of natural wines. The cafe, which opened in May 2018, has developed a following for its churros and coffee program, but the dinner program allows them to reach regulars and new faces, the people who work in Manhattan and arrive back in Ridgewood after their usual 5 p.m. closing time. 

The dinner menu features shareable plates with a mix of local ingredients and specialty foods imported from Spain. Many options are vegan, including a mushroom pate, a white bean spread and pan tumaca—toasted sourdough served with fresh grated tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. 

Meat eaters will delight in the choripan, a South American sandwich popular in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay of grilled chorizo with chimichurri sauce. Owner Andres Castello’s mother is Chilean and Cafe Esencia’s version is only $6. 

A seasonally changing meat and cheese board features Hudson Valley triple cream brie and jamón serrano. And of course, the churros are available at night. Castello, whose family is from Cartagena in Spain, says they’re a common late night dessert during summers in Spain and equally appropriate for breakfast. Bars in Spain, he says “are normally open in the morning and open in the evening as well.”

Cafe Esencia recently got their beer and wine license and is offering beers and natural wines, which are just $6 a glass for the first few weeks of service. Bottles are mostly under $40 with some options under $30, including rosé and orange wines from Spain, Italy, and France. Castello says he sees the same bottles sold at Manhattan restaurants for three times the price and enjoys the process of sourcing the wines, getting ideas from next door neighbor Forêt Wines. He hopes to keep offering “interesting wines at a fair and reasonable price.” In the future, he’d like to add more domestic bottles from regions like Oregon and New York’s Finger Lakes.

Starting on July 18, Cafe Esencia will offer dinner on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with the possibility to expand to more days in the future. The kitchen will be open until 10 p.m. and there’s indoor and outdoor seating. If people are hanging out, Castello says, “we can be open until 2 a.m.” For the past several weeks, Fridays have been the program’s soft open, allowing the team of five to refine logistics and the menu. Castello sees a nice flow, as guests can grab food and wine at Cafe Esencia and then head down the block for a cocktail at the Sundown. He’s working on getting permits to add candles in the evening, shifting the atmosphere and recently had a ledge installed perfect for wine glasses. 

In the past year, Cafe Esencia has developed a regular clientele in Ridgewood and felt welcomed by the friendly and mellow community (a regular once visited three times in a single day). They’re excited to offer a casual tapas experience “that’s been missing in the neighborhood” in addition to their breakfast and lunch service and hiring new cooks as they grow.

current Hours:

Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fridays 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Saturdays and Sundays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Follow their Instagram for more updates.

Images courtesy of Zoe Hegedus.

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