Turning dreams into reality
by Tennille Lindsey-Wright
photography by Christopher Guzman
Close your eyes and picture Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. What do you see? How about a beautiful turquoise ocean, sand that stretches for miles, historic 18th century architecture, rock formations and the nicest people you will ever meet. This is exactly what you get when you walk into downtown La Verne’s newest Mexican restaurant, Café Cabo. The rustic yet modern décor offers a warm and inviting atmosphere. The ocean view and historic buildings are depicted on detailed wall paintings throughout the restaurant, and there is the Cabo ambience when you partake of their delicious food.
Art and Judy Moore and son A.J. Apodaca are co-owners of Café Cabo. They do a great job keeping the restaurant true to its theme, which is to create a home atmosphere modeled after their favorite vacation place, which they frequent at least twice a year. The owners are University of La Verne alumni, and their ULV diplomas adorn a wall. Judy and A.J. both received their master’s degrees from the University of La Verne in Public Administration. Daughter Tessy Granudos earned her ULV B.S. degree in Organizational Management. It is evident that the University holds a special place of honor for this family.
Judy Moore had always dreamed of opening a restaurant. She says she wanted to share her mother’s mouthwatering and hearty recipes with the world. “Of my mother’s five kids, I was the one to maximize her recipes. My family would always call me, asking how to make certain dishes. With four children of my own, I found myself cooking a lot of my mother’s recipes because Mexican food is not expensive, and it goes a long way when you are on a budget.” Nevertheless, it takes more than a dream and the ability to cook to open a restaurant. Judy never thought it would happen. Financial responsibilities and family obligations stood in the way. With Judy employed full-time as a project manager for Southern California Edison, her husband Art working in the car dealership business and son A.J. employed as a police officer, the desire continued to be just that, a dream. But fate had other plans. Her son A.J. sustained an injury as a Los Angeles police officer and was forced to retire early after 17 years of service. The family decided this was the right moment to put their plan into action. Originally, they were going to open a small taco stand, which they felt was ideal for first time restaurant owners. But a La Verne trip converted that small taco stand into something larger: a restaurant. While driving down D Street, the Moores noticed a for rent sign. Judy called the number, the conversation with the landlord went well, and Café Cabo was born. The Moores continue to work their full-time jobs while coordinating their restaurant schedules with one another and son A.J.
The grand opening was Dec. 15, 2010, and the Moores say the city of La Verne heartily welcomed Café Cabo. The owners joined the Chamber of Commerce, and Art has become a board alternate. A bonus comes for the University community: students and staff/faculty are able to receive a 10 percent meal discount, plus receive a VIP card that is hole-punched, awarding a 10th meal free. The owners are looking forward to becoming even more involved by hosting fundraising events for University and community organizations.
Old town D Street has recently seen several businesses close, some unexpectedly. The economy has left many people with shattered hopes. Café Cabo’s very location has been home to three recently failed business attempts. The owners are very aware of the history of their location yet are confident. They believe the downtown La Verne area will thrive again, and that the University of La Verne is an important support anchor. “Our strategy is to provide quality food and continue to introduce new unique dishes,” Judy says. Café Cabo will be introducing new foods such as “spinach enchiladas” and “mexi-skins.” The owners believe that offering several options to their customers and giving back to the community is the best way to ensure longevity and success.
The Café Cabo owners have also done their best to ensure their customers are receiving healthy food. Judy says she worked aggressively with her 20-year veteran cooks to ensure the proper delivery of her family recipes. These recipes do not include lard, trans fat or saturated fat. “We have developed our menu to accommodate vegetarians,” she says. Her own favorite dish? Chile verde, which is oven roasted, peeled, then ground in an old fashioned molcajete. The entire process takes more than four hours, a small time sacrifice, Judy says, to deliver the best to her customers.
Do not be surprised if you are greeted as “mijo,” which means my son, or “mija,” which means my daughter, when you walk through the doors of Café Cabo. Consider that the initiation into the Café Cabo family. Says Judy, “What makes our restaurant different from others is that once you walk in, you are part of our family. We want you to feel at home.”
The Café Cabo experience
It starts with the chips and salsa. For me, not partaking in this appetizer is the norm. I have since changed my opinion. The salsa, with its perfect blend of spices, has an authentic zesty flavor. Art Moore credits the flavorful salsa to his three-days-a-week grocery run for fresh produce. “I am constantly going to the store,” he says. “Fresh produce is the key to good food.” The mild or spicy salsa served with warm, crispy tortilla chips is a perfect introduction to Café Cabo’s cuisine wonderland. The menu consists of tacos, burritos, enchiladas and salads. What sounds like traditional Mexican food instead has its own flare that sets it apart. “We taste everything to make sure the quality is consistent,” Judy says. Do you want a burrito half chicken, half carne asada? No, that combination is not on the menu, but you can order it. Custom eating experiences are welcomed. To conclude the tasty adventure, a crunchy dessert called Buñelos, tortilla chips served warm with cinnamon and sugar, is served. With quality meats, fresh produce, outstanding customer service and a delicious dessert treat, this restaurant has become a customer favorite.