Surrounded by a peaceful grove of redwood trees and tucked away from the hubbub of Scotts Valley Drive, Cafe Carbonero is a promising fresh space, and owner and chef Byron Gravelle is excited.
"I'm kind of big on challenges, this place was definitely a challenge," said Gravelle of taking on the cafeteria space located in the downstairs of the Fox Racing Shox building on Disc Drive, and turning it into an inviting business.
Opening on June 11 of this year, Cafe Carbonero is an open and airy 4,000 square feet of sun dappled space, just down the street from Santa Cruz Hospice, and a stone's throw away from the giant new Bay Photo Lab building soon to open.
The cafe mirrors the surrounding business park, which clears out around 5:30 p.m. or so, and they've been smart to offer breakfast, lunch, and organic, ground-to-order coffee on Monday through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
But Cafe Carbonero isn't your average restaurant. Food and entertainment are its focus, and customers get an interactive experience with the chef—often Gavelle himself—when they order their food. Like the fresh polenta bar featured for last week's lunch special: calamari or chicken, an array of vegetables, and a little wine introduced over garlic stewed polenta, customised with a flourish in front of your eyes.
"At one point I was making five orders at once," said Gravelle, who is in his element when entertaining his customers.
"I love hospitality ... I just love chatting it up and sharing with them and cooking for them, telling little anecdotal stories about the food," said Gravelle.
His stories often include anecdotes about his grandmothers, who all happened to be amazing cooks from all different backgrounds.
"I try to put myself in the mental frame of grandma," said Gravelle. "So everything is made from scratch the way Grandma would cook it, as much as possible. The French referred to 'the way Grandmother would cook it' as a way to infer the kind of deep comfort-rooted element of food that calls you like a siren."
The comfort-rooted menu also pivots around a heart healthy standard, which Gravelle said was inspired by his doctor, as a part of entering his 50's.
"He really sent me on a path that took a couple years of learning how to just slowly reduce fat and reduce bad carbohydrates from your diet," said Gravelle.
Salads, sandwiches and fresh, organic ingredients are all featured on the Cafe Carbonero menu.
"It's about fresh, local, and healthy," said Gravelle, who even ventures into the realm of tasty vegan and vegetarian options, although the menu is not lacking in hearty meat proteins.
Gravelle's experience is vast; he's worked 27 years as an executive chef, naming Peachwoods at Pasatiempo Golf Course and Bella Mia in downtown San Jose as some of his old stomping grounds. This is the first restaurant he's owned though, and he's excited for the possibilities.
The wide open dining room, peaceful and spacious patio, and food concourse area is just begging for a party, and Gravelle foresees coordinating events, parties and celebrations in the space over the quiet weekends. There is enough room for a band, a dance floor, mingle space and food space.
"This restaurant wouldn't be here if it weren't for all of these elements coming together. I'm here and I want to succeed and give back to the community with my love and passion for food, and give people a space enjoy themselves and make memories," said Gravelle.
Cafe Carbonero is at 915 Disc Drive in Scotts Valley. Check out their website for the menu, contact info and latest updates!