Chulo’s Café and Cantina in Templeton probably isn’t a place you’ll just run across.
Even if you see the sign on Las Tablas Road telling you to turn left in 1,000 feet, you’ll still need to know to go all the way to the end of the Posada Lane cul-de-sac, where you’ll find Chulo’s tucked amid a warren of medical and other professional offices.
After stepping inside Chulo’s, you’ll leave the business world behind, especially out on the relaxing, covered patio. The festive dining room has warm colors, tasteful wall decorations, and a Latin soundtrack that’s upbeat without being overpowering. With just 17 tables throughout, it’s a cozy place with a welcoming vibe.
Open for about nine months, the café/cantina is a dream come true for Karol and Luis Ruiz. The couple met in the restaurant business, and both have considerable experience in it — hers in the front of the house, his in the back, “so it’s a perfect match,” said Karol.
Chulo’s promises “fusion Latin American cuisine,” and the eight national flags on the front of the menu let you know they mean it.
One of the flags is that of the United States, so the “American” is also represented by classic stateside dishes, especially for breakfast. Choose from bacon and eggs to eggs Benedict, house-made corned beef hash to biscuits and gravy, seven-grain pancakes to a Denver omelet (one of 20-plus omelets and skillets available). At lunch, go for such familiar items as a Reuben sandwich with house-made corned beef, a chef salad, or a burger with American cheese and fries.
From there, the south-of-the-border flavors at Chulo’s travel through Luis’ Mexican heritage, all the way down to Karol’s native Peru, and back again. Stamp your culinary passport with huevos ranchero or nopales con huevos (cactus and eggs), a quinoa salad with tomatoes and queso fresco or a Cubana torta sandwich with ham and a pork chop, a Mambo Jambo tortilla topped with black beans and eggs or a Mexican combo plate with a fluffy chile relleno and house-made pork tamale.
The menu offers more than 100 choices, and breakfast and lunch are available all day. Karol admitted that “we put out a large menu and were going to shrink it, but people have developed a lot of favorites, so we can’t really take anything off. It is a big menu, but people love it.”
Customers are also responding favorably to the fact that “everything is fresh and cooked to order, and we make all the different sauces from scratch — we’re not just opening a can and putting the same thing on all the dishes. It’s all homemade, and people notice the difference,” Karol said. In fact, Chulo’s even has its own signature hot sauce that’s Luis’ own “secret recipe.”
The restaurant serves bottled beer and local wine, but the potent potables list also extends to mimosas (both traditional and with juices such as pomegranate and passion fruit), sangrias (not just red, but also white, tropical and berry), and drinks with wine-based tequila and vodka like a margarita, Bloody Mary and a “Latinopolitan.”
Future plans for Chulo’s include expanding into dinner with even more of an emphasis on global cuisine. It will be “a totally different menu than breakfast and lunch, with Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinean, Brazilian and we’ll have specials like lomo saltado, Peruvian ceviche and empanadas — it’ll be a fiesta in your mouth!”