Quaint. Cozy. Comforting.
The not-so-little café around the corner along B.S. Aquino right before you make the right bend for the University of St. La Salle if you are facing north, spells and smells homey.
Entering the café is like entering grandma’s cottage in the prairie, with white straight-backed chairs, set off against the light blue walls of the shop, dotted with mounted shelves filled with books inviting you to read, along a sign exhorting patrons to make memories.
It’s quaint, cozy, comforting. Perfect for that cup of java and fat chocolate-dipped churros, with a cream-filled puffyani on the side.
Welcome to Quino’s Café, home of the aforementioned puffyani, a place that offers coffee, cakes, and what the owner and manager John Ledesma describes as “comfort food” – nachos, fries, churros, chicken wings, and – just recently introduced – burgers.
Quite interesting for something with an initial tagline of “Cupcakes, coffee, sandwiches”.
FROM CUPCAKES TO COMFORT FOOD
“We started as a cupcake house,” John tells DNX, “because cupcakes have always been in other countries like the US but here, it didn’t catch on.”
Eventually, John and wife Anne had to improvise, so they opt to sell cake slices instead of cupcakes.
That one, that caught on.
Now, the café has been operating for six years going seven.
“By god’s grace, we are doing our best to be significant and to be relevant to the city [and its culture],” Ledesma says.
The café offers the usual food often served in other cafes – there’s the requisite Tex-Mex food like nachos, then there’s the nachos with fries, sandwiches, chicken wings. And then the cakes, made from scratch unlike others use a pre-mix.
“We still do things by hand here,” he says, adding that Quino’s cakes might be a tad more expensive than the commercial ones because there are not shortcuts to greatness, and great flavors.
But the pride of place is the puffyani, a delicate pastry that is shaped like a cream puff, has a cream filling like napoleones.
There is nothing like the puffyani anywhere else in the world.
And the thing is, it is not even meant to be that way.
Like the crepes suzette that that accidentally caught fire, or the tarte tatin which was supposedly overcooked, the puffyani’s creation was also borne out of a mistake.
“I had asked Anne to come with something like a napoleones – a puffeone – but it didn’t come out right. It was however delicious, so we decided not to rectify it, but named it after our daughter, Yani, instead,” he says.
And, the puffyani is born. It has become the banner product of Quino’s, and has literally gone places as relatives of patrons overseas inevitably are begging their compatriots for orders.
ENTER THE VIRUS
Quino’s, despite the revolutionary vision of its owners, has also felt the crunch brought about by the series of lockdowns no thanks to the pandemic.
The losses, John admits, were extensive. For instance, he had to let go of almost 40 percent of his workforce, and he had to refund customers “a huge amount of money” because of the series of cancellations.
But things are picking up now, slowly but surely.
Now, John says they have added burgers to their offerings, a perfect match for the rest of the menu.
While others have quit and folded up, Quino’s gave forged on.
As the DNX team is about to wrap up the interview, a couple entered and settled themselves a few tables away. A waiting staff took their orders, and briskly left.
Other tables are buzzing with conversation; others are enjoying their food – a plate of nacho fries there, an order of puffyani in another.
“This is what we have to offer,” John says, “good food, while making good memories.”
We can only agree.