Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Finding Café Mundo Was a Fluke

I had the addresses of two Newport, OR, restaurants as possibilities for our post-aquarium lunch. But then, as we were leaving the aquarium, I picked up a copy of the Newport guide and opened it to an article entitled “Forever Funky” describing Newport’s Nye Beach area.
And there I read about Café Mundo: “(a)n absolute Newport institution for locals and hip visitors alike…. The vibe is casual and funky, inside and out: décor includes individually painted tables, local artists’ works, flowing silky wall hangings, a surfboard or two, Tibetan prayer flags, a furry bicycle, and a terrific climbing tree in the middle of the outdoor seating area.”
They so had me with the mention of the furry bicycle. Welcome to Café Mundo (in Spanish, “World Café”).

“Café Mundo’s front gate is tall, wooden and weathered, like the entrance to a secret garden of delights.
For lovers of international cuisine, sustainable living and cultural community, that’s exactly what it is, and has been, for the past 10 years. This restaurant and performing arts venue…began as a seasonal food cart surrounded by picnic tables and hay bales. Today, it’s a spacious restaurant complete with an indoor stage and art-filled dining area with outdoor seating.

But while Café Mundo has grown, one thing hasn’t changed. Open the gate, and you’ll find a destination that reflects the world view and the circle of friends, possessed by owners Laurie and Greg Card…” (Niki Price at oregoncoasttoday.com).

“Ever been in a restaurant that reminds you of the place you ate at last week? That won't happen at Cafe Mundo…. The eclectic cafe was started nine years ago by Greg and Laurie Card, on an open lot where they parked a food trailer that they had purchased in Portland. This, essentially, gave them a three-month season, when it is bearable to dine outdoors a block from the Pacific in Oregon” (Terry Richard for The Oregonian).

“…Greg cultivated the outdoor atmosphere. He camouflaged the fence with yards of netting, found objects and donated art, and created an awning with an abandoned, painted satellite dish. He planted the oft-admired Mundo garden, hung light strings and placed woodstoves about the yard to help warm the coastal air” (Niki Price at oregoncoasttoday).
Note: A Schrader Fireplace

With the help of family and friends, in 2007, Laurie and Greg moved into a vaulted two-story space with indoor seating for about sixty.
The ground floor holds a small stage and “(t)he all-ages venue has hosted performance artists since its inception with acts including local, national, and international musicians and shows encompassing a wide range of genres…” (Laura Eberly at cafemundo.us) and the café’s website states that Café Mundo “…promotes original & independently-represented musicians. All music is original, public domain, non-BMI copyrighted material and non-ASCAP copyrighted material.”
After absorbing what some might call the visual excess of the patio and ground floor, we proceeded upstairs to the main dining area.

From there we got an entirely different perspective of the café’s eccentricity and were especially taken with this giant mobile that seemed to have been inspired by the Mexican holiday Día de Los Muertos.

“Each cafe table has been hand-painted by a different coastal artist,

and thanks to Laurie's 40th birthday request, each chair is also unique. ‘I decided I would tell all my friends that if they were thinking of bringing over a gift, I would like for each of them to bring a sturdy wooden chair—and they did,’ she says, shaking her head with appreciation. As a result, 60 different wooden chairs of all shapes, colors, and sizes add charm to the cafe's upbeat, eclectic atmosphere” (Laura Eberly at cafemundo.us).

And in the sea of hand-painted table tops sat one lone table covered with what my mother would have called oil cloth. Are any of you old enough to remember oil cloth?
The menu was as casual as were the surroundings. Taco choices (three per order) included chicken mole, grilled fish, and tempeh. All came with cabbage slaw and crema, although with the tempeh you could substitute a vegan sauce for the crema. “Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a patty, similar to a very firm veggie burger. Many commercially prepared brands add other grains, such as barley, and also add spices and extra flavors. Although tempeh is made from soy, it has a unique taste and is mildly flavorful on its own, unlike tofu” (vegetarianabout.com).
Tempeh also made an appearance in one of the bento bowls with the other choices being teriyaki chicken and “just vegetables.” Salads included the Selena (baby greens, pears, gorgonzola, and walnuts and served with house poppyseed dressing and bread) and the Brianna (glass noodles, cabbage, peppers, cucumbers, cilantro, and peanut vinaigrette).
Both of us went to the sandwich section of the menu where we could have selected: Cheeses of the World with gorgonzola, Swiss, cheddar, and brie cheeses with tomatoes: a Greek Veggie Pita or a Greek Chicken Pita, each with hummus, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, kalamata olives, feta sauce, and tzatziki; and a Curry Wrap with potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, and peas with coconut curry sauce and wrapped in a whole grain tortilla.

Chuck ordered the Double Angus Burger—a grilled free-range McK Ranch patty (grass fed without added growth hormones or antibiotics), Tillamook cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, and mustard.
I will admit to not tasting this, but in response to my question “How is the burger?” he mumbled with mouth full of food “It’s really good.”

With my sandwich, I ordered the day’s soup—Chicken Paprika. Or at least that is what I thought our server said.
It looked and tasted like Chicken Tortilla to me. What ever you call it, it was a delicious combination of chicken, carrot, onion, and celery and served with a thick slice of the café’s house-made bread. Unfortunately, it arrived at the table simultaneously with our sandwiches.

I ordered the Albacore Burger that was a slice of grilled albacore tuna that was about a third-of-an-inch thick and served on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, and wasabi mayonnaise.
While the tuna was still moist, I did think that it had been overcooked a bit. I like to see at least some pink—if not red—in my tuna.

Both sandwiches came with a small side salad of mixed greens, red cabbage, carrot, and cucumber. (Have I ever told you that Chuck doesn’t eat cucumbers? So these made their way onto my plate. Kind of like how his mushrooms usually do.) “…The salads are made with mostly organic, locally grown vegetables with a dressing that might have magical powers. ‘Our poppy seed dressing makes kids eat salad. It’s been our dressing for the past 10 years, and teenagers eat bottles of it,’ the chef said. ‘It works, even for adults that normally don’t eat salad’” (Niki Price at oregoncoasttoday).

What a great lunch stop! We found 5.0 Addie atmosphere along with 4.5 Addie food. What more can you ask. Well, maybe that the sentiment of this bumper be true.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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