“The idea of having something like this in the neighborhood has been in my head for a couple of years,” Gabriela Kovacik, owner of Cafe Lago.

“It’d be great if we attracted people from all over like Franki’s, but the idea is supposed to be quick, casual but quality food in this neighborhood.”

That’s Franki’s as in Franki’s lil Europe, the well-known Eastern European eatery that Gabriela and her husband opened 14 years ago just up the street in the Casa Linda Shopping Center. In December, however, the couple finalized their commitment to serving the neighborhood residents in a more informal manner – such as when we get ready to go to work or after our afternoon bike ride – by opening up this contemporary, urban eatery low on fanfare and high on light.

There are no waiters or menus, just a blackboard on which the standards (sandwiches, hearty soups, inventive salads) mingle next to the day’s desserts (Tom’s Eclairs, cobbler or souffle) and specials such as fish, lamb stew and pastas.

“The lunch and dinner menu are the same. Breakfast is a different story. But the food itself is… well, almost everything I love to eat,” laughs Kovacik.

Lucky for us it’s an appetite that delights in a wide range of delectable creations that are “not only delicious, but nutritious.”

“We saw this area as a neighborhood that would probably appreciate, welcome, having something that was non-franchise and close to home.

“The location was the tough part,” Kovacik says. So for two years, they planned the cafe and finally decided on the retail space attached to the newly built Reserve at White Rock. Every step along the way, parts “just kind of fell into place,” Kovacik says. “I let a lot of things just happen.”

That same split was infiltrated the cafe’s culinary strategy. An early morning trawl could leave diners satisfied with a grilled entree at 10 in the morning, or an evening drop-in can satisfy with soup and sandwich.

Of course, it’s about the lago… and all the great ones have their own cafe.

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