If you’re looking for the best home cooking, U.S.-style, in Cuenca, check out California Kitchen. Many of those who have say the cooking is not only the best in Cuenca but better than anything they’ve had the States as well.
Opened in April by California family George, Carol, Susie and Jim Evans, the Kitchen has quickly staked out a reputation with expats and Cuencanos for its great food, friendly atmosphere weekend specials.
George grew up in the family restaurant business in California, handling everything from cooking, to waiting tables, to taking out the garbage. “I’ve always known the business but I hadn’t been involved with it since I left my parents’ restaurant,” he says. “One of the things that made me decide to get back into it in Cuenca, quite honestly, was Carol’s cooking. It’s so good I thought: why not share it!”
Many of the Kitchen’s recipes, in fact, are Carol's. She shares cooking chores with son Jim while daughter Susie waits tables and handles other aspects of the business.
Located in a charming historic home on the corner of Calles Sangurima and Presidente Borrero, the Kitchen offers a choice of hearty breakfasts, including the overwhelming “Day Ender” –which functions just as well as a day starter– and includes bacon, hashbrowns, eggs, homemade biscuits with gravy, choice of French toast or waffle served with warm maple syrup.
Lunches include hamburgers and a choice of four California-style sandwiches. Among the sides, the broccoli and potato salads deserve special mention. Sandwiches, with a side, run from $4.25 to $5.25.
Depending on the day, you can treat yourself to one of Carol’s homemade soups, including carrot coconut lime, tortellini or butternut quash and apple. The Napa Valley house salad and San Francisco Ceasar also come highly rated. Soups and salads range from $3.25 to $3.95.
If you come for lunch Thursday through Saturday, you also can choose the dinner special which varies, according to the chefs’ whims from fried chicken, beef pot roast with mashed potatoes & gravy and pasta dishes. Main courses are $9 to $11.
For dessert, the chocolate mousse macadamia tart, N.Y. cheesecake and fresh fruit cobbler provide a strong closing act.
Saturday nights have attracted a full house in recent weeks. This week’s special is coconut shrimp with a pineapple aji chutney, Asian slaw with steamed rice, choice of soup (carrot coconut lime) or dinner salad, choice of dessert (N.Y. cheesecake, chocolate mousse macadamia tart or berry cobbler a la mode) and choice of a non-alcoholic beverage, for $9.99. Other recent Saturday’s have featured a Mexican medley and country friend chicken.
Be sure to sign up for the Kitchen’s email list. Carol sends out a weekly message listing soups of the day and weekend specials.
California Kitchen is located at the corner of Gaspar Sangurima and Presidente Borrero; phone 08 311 1740; Open Tuesday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Thursday through Saturday for dinner, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday.
Photo captions: The California Kitchen is located in the atrium of a restored historic home; the Waffles and French toast with warm Maple syrup are breakfast favorites; photo credit: waffles and French toast courtesy of Kookaburra.