If it weren't for the ad in a local Newport, Oregon,
coupon savings booklet, a tourist would probably pass by Café
Mundo without giving it a thought. But the locals know better.In
Nye Beach, Café Mundo occupies a corner lot on Coast Street,
just a block from Oregon's rugged coastline. A seaside retreat
since the 1800s, today Nye retains its artsy, village atmosphere
despite the annual influx of summer tourists.
Million-dollar homes share seaside bluffs with beach cottages
from the '50s; trendy clothing stores, a visual arts center and
unique restaurants line the hilly streets.
Café Mundo definitely fits the unique restaurant category.
Greg and Laurie Card first opened it in 1998 in a mobile kitchen
trailer set on the vacant lot; seating was at outdoor tables.
Six years later the trailer was replaced with a 12-by-14-foot
permanent kitchen and the casual eating area began its transformation
into garden dining.
With no indoor seating, however, the restaurant could only provide
income for the Cards and their four children during Oregon's brief
summer season. So in late 2005 they decided to leap into building
a year-round restaurant. How they accomplished it is as unique
as the final product.
"We didn't make enough profit to qualify for a bank loan,"
Greg Card says. "We've always been very connected with the
community, so we sought local investors and they came through."
The Cards also held fund-raisers and did much of the construction
Opened in March 2007, the new Café Mundo reflects not only
the owners' community orientation, but their commitment to ecologically
sustainable practices. The 2,220-square-foot two-story structure,
built right over the old kitchen, is supported by a pre-engineered
frame of 70 percent recycled-steel beams. The exterior is composite
panels; the interior walls painted plywood and farmed Sitka spruce
finish-milled on site.
Redwood driftwood salvaged from the beach was used to create the
barn-style doors that open the ground floor to the outdoor garden
Passive solar heating keeps the interior comfortably warm most
days; a natural gas fireplace fills in when needed. A 4-inch-diameter
PVC pipe delivers order requests from the upstairs dining room
to the kitchen below simply by gravity; a dumbwaiter lifts the
filled orders to the second level.
Envisioning the café as a modern equivalent to the old
neighborhood soda shop, the atmosphere is warm and casual, and
definitely eclectic. Tabletops sport individually painted designs
and large-scale works of local artists decorate the walls.
Dining chairs were presents on Laurie's birthday. From Café
Mundo's humble beginnings in the trailer, chef Laurie Card has
insisted on "green" practices. Menu items are made from
scratch with fresh, locally grown or caught ingredients, many
organic. Kitchen scraps are composted and recycling is standard
procedure. Says Laurie, "We don't buy corporate products.
Supporting local growers is part of giving back to the community."
The symbiosis of Café Mundo with the community is a major
factor in its success. A relaxed, family atmosphere encourages
people to hang around and visit and local musical groups frequently
entertain. Greg Card describes his goal as making every visit
a social gathering.
Although the restaurant is on solid footing now, several setbacks
during the 16-month construction period threatened the project.
"We did not adequately research the steel building company
beforehand and faced a six-month delivery delay," Greg says.
"We should have asked for and checked out references from
prior customers before buying."
Laurie Card had not anticipated the volume of extra paperwork
and supervisory responsibilities that a larger work force entails.
And she says, "More space means more cleaning and maintenance
The most important thing the Cards learned during the project
-- aside from patience and maintaining faith in their vision --
was that hidden costs could easily bust a budget. "We thought
we had considered everything, but things we couldn't imagine popped
up," Laurie says. For instance, the requirements for the
fire suppression system changed during construction, raising the
cost considerably; in this case, however, decreased insurance
rates partly offset the additional cost.
The Cards believe that their best decision was to build as much
as they could personally, with the help of many friends. They
estimate that it decreased the cost of construction by twothirds.
Plus, they retained creative control throughout and are prepared
to handle maintenance and repair themselves.
For Greg and Laurie Card, Café Mundo is a lifestyle, not
a job. They live next door and spend most of their waking hours
on restaurant business. For this couple -- Laurie a pastry and
sushi chef and Greg a former landscaper and event promoter --
working together to make a living is a blessing.
But for them the passion is not in the creative menu or the friendly
atmosphere, it's in being able to reinvest in the Nye Beach community.
For the Cards the bottom line to success is to, "Connect
with the local people, for they are your support base."
Reconstruction Complete: April 2007.
Smoking allowed: Outside only.
Average check: Breakfast, $9 to $12; lunch, $12; dinner, $12,
with specials $16 to $25.
Square feet of restaurant: 2,220 square feet of kitchen: 360 square
Number of seats: 50 upstairs, 12 ground floor, 60 outside (seasonal).
Number of staff: 12 including the owners.
Where and how you got your financing: Community investors, fund-raising
Are you leasing or do you own the property? Own restaurant property,
live next door.
Signature items: Mesquite grilled albacore burger with wasabi
mayo; crepes filled with strawberries and housemade vanilla custard,
topped with chocolate ganache and whipped cream; Dungeness crab
cakes with mango-ginger chutney served with coconut saffron rice.
First or subsequent restaurant under this name: 1st restaurant,
Hours of operation: Tuesday to Thursday, 2-10 p.m.; Friday and
Saturday, 2 p.m. to midnight; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed
Monday and also Tuesday in winter.
Advertising/Promotional Methods: Local newspapers, Nye Beach Merchants
Association coupon book and word of mouth from their nine-year
local following. Listing as a "Community Arts Venue"brings
tourists and locals to writers group meetings, musical entertainment
and outdoor theater productions in the garden.
Cafe Mundo Celebrates Its First Decade
A decade of evolution has brought Cafe Mundo - a restaurant
and performing arts venue located at the heart of Newport's
Nye Beach district - from its beginnings as a seasonal food
cart surrounded by picnic tables and hay bales to a new era
as a year-round establishment offering a spacious, two-story
facility with an indoor stage and dining mezzanine, outdoor
garden seating with the occasional open-air theater performance,
and a showcase of original artwork indoors and out - illuminated
by paper lanterns and twinkling strands of lights.
The cafe's menu of world fusion cuisine entices with entrees
of mouth-watering mesquite-grilled steak (free-range beef),
pan-seared jumbo scallops in roasted red pepper sauce, and tacos
with tempeh, fish, or fingersteaks prepared over the cafe's
outdoor fire grill. The sushi menu features smoked salmon and
barbecue-teriyaki albacore tuna; soups and breads are made fresh
daily; and vegetarian and vegan selections include tempeh fries
with peanut dipping sauce, Indian red lentil stew with yogurt
and chutney, and scrumptious salads loaded with organic, locally-grown
vegetables drizzled with tangy-zesty house dressing. Mango Crisp
and Cream, Cafe Mundo Creme Brulee, Kahlua Chocolate Decadence,
and Pineapple-Coconut Cheesecake are just a few of the items
on the dessert list; and the the full coffee bar also stocks
specialty teas, all-natural carbonated drinks, and select wines
and microbrew ales.
Cafe Mundo celebrated its tenth anniversary on Independence
Day; and with last year's completion of a permanent facility,
has spent the past few seasons offering locals and visitors
alike a gathering place to enjoy live musical entertainment
and spectacular food - whether inside the restaurant or al fresco
near the woodstove in the garden.
Laurie Card, the cafe's executive chef, co-owns the operation
with her husband Greg, who oversees the dining areas as lead
server, campfire tender, and head dishwasher. He also cares
for the plants.
The Cards are artists in spirit and practice. Laurie has been
honing her culinary skill since age 7, when her dad began sharing
his own cooking talents by showing her around the kitchen. Greg
is a classically trained dancer, and served as a Newport city
landscaper for 16 years before an on-the-job back injury changed
the course of his career. "He's why we have the big Mundo
garden. If it were up to me, I'd just be peddling food, but
Greg has to make it aesthetically beautiful," Laurie says.
"When I first met this man, my aunt asked, 'Well, what
does he do?' and I said, 'Well, he plants flowers and then he
dances around them.' And she said, 'That's so romantic!'"
Their love for each other and for the community as a whole is
evident in the cafe's thoughtful details: cloth napkins, the
occasional chalkboard wall encouraging passersby to express
their inner artist, and the clever exhibition of vibrant, original
artwork hung from the walls and ceiling. They've also made a
point of having Cafe Mundo embody the "slow food"
concept: Each dish is made in the order in which it's received,
allowing plenty of time for wine and conversation before the
meal arrives and giving the flavor of the atmosphere a chance
to cook into the food.
The menu changes seasonally with several popular favorites,
including grilled tuna burgers and sushi, available year-round
and specials reflecting the bounty of the local area. "It's
healthy to eat what's in season, and we like using what's available
locally," Laurie says, touching briefly on the importance
of clean air and the ecological ramifications of international
produce transportation. She has built a menu of international
recipes adapted to locally available ingredients. "I create
a fusion of things from all around the world and make it my
own," she says. "My sushi, for example - I don't use
calrose rice, I use Thai jasmine rice because it's fragrant
and I figured out a method of cooking it for sushi - so it's
a Japanese dish with Thai ingredients" combined with locally-caught
wild salmon and tuna and locally-grown organic vegetables. "And
everything here is made from scratch."
"Let's not forget the poppyseed dressing," says Greg.
"We only serve one dressing" - the house specialty
made by Cafe Mundo - "and I haven't had any complaints
yet - this is the kind of dressing that will get your kids to
"It does, it makes kids eat salad," Laurie adds, "it's
"We've seen a couple of generations come through now,"
Greg comments. The teenagers who were once regulars around the
cafe's mobile kitchen are now young parents with children of
their own. "It really is like the neighborhood malt shop,
like back in the old days when there were more gathering places
for the whole family."
The all-ages venue has hosted performance artists since its
inception with acts including local, national, and international
musicians and shows encompassing a wide range of genres: bellydancing,
puppet theater, acoustic jams, fire dancing, Shakespearean revues.
Pacific Northwest rhythm and bluesman Rick Bartow - whose visual
artwork is included in the Smithsonian National Museum of the
American Indian as well as on the walls of Cafe Mundo - has
held down the regular Saturday night slot for the entire decade
of the cafe's existence, making it his flagship performance
Each cafe table has been hand-painted by a different coastal
artist and, thanks to Laurie's 40th birthday request, each chair
is also unique. "I decided I would tell all my friends
that if they were thinking of bringing over a gift, I would
like for each of them to bring a sturdy wooden chair - and they
did," she says, shaking her head with appreciation. As
a result, 60 different wooden chairs of all shapes, colors,
and sizes add charm to the cafe's upbeat, eclectic atmosphere.
When Laurie and Greg founded Cafe Mundo as a food cart and catering
business nearly a decade ago, "I hoped, but I had no idea
it would be like this," Laurie says, "but a permanent
building has been our goal the whole time, and the idea was
always to have a gathering place with a garden and good music."
Cozy on the Outside
The cafe, now a mainstay of Nye Beach, got its start when Greg
and Laurie picked out an empty lot at the corner of Coast Street
and Northwest Second Court - about three blocks from public
parking and paved beach access - and worked out a deal with
the landlord to set up shop. Despite Oregon's coastal weather
limiting the open season to late spring through early fall,
Cafe Mundo caught on. M*A*S*H-like coverings were put in place
to provide some protection from the coastal mists; and ever-creative,
Greg set up a central seating area underneath an overturned,
whimsically-painted satellite dish erected in the yard like
a giant mushroom. They hung light strings and cargo netting,
received all manner of decor as contributions from the local
arts community, and placed woodstoves about the yard to help
warm the evening air.
The original kitchen was a 1966 converted trailer camper Greg
and Laurie bought in Portland, where it had served as a Rastafarian
street cafe. "When we got it, it was painted all green,
red, and black. We repainted it and cleaned it out, and I used
the oven and stove from the original camper," Laurie recalls.
"I could bake three loaves of bread in that oven - you
could get all three loaves in just so; it was really tight,
but I got to the point where I knew exactly how high to let
the bread rise before it touched the top of the oven. I'd bake
nine loaves a day, and I've been baking my own bread ever since."
"She also made seven different desserts - that was a seriously
productive 12-foot little space," adds Greg.
"It was super efficient," says Laurie. "I'd chop
the sushi then turn around and zoop! Into the cooler. We could
get four people in there - mostly trained dancers - and we'd
move around each other. It was amazing."
For years, the Cards have lived with their children in the house
adjacent to the cafe property, and eventually - thanks to unfailing
support from the property owner and the strong belief of key
members in the local community - they were able to buy the four
city-block lot that includes the cafe and their home. In 2007
when they moved the trailer to break ground for the restaurant's
permanent structure, Laurie saved the sushi cooler from the
one-time Rastafarian kitchen and had it installed in the new
"We've gone from doing this seasonally to this is our life,"
she notes. "It's almost like a meditative discipline."
The Cards continue to evolve with the cafe, and the couple recently
completed the first year of the small business management program
offered by the Small Business Development Center at Oregon Coast
Community College, a course that is helping them combine their
talents and life experience with sound business sense. Ron Spisso,
the program director, "is helping us implement our life
into our business; that's what it is, it's one thing. It's always
what you're doing."
All four of the children - Laurie's three girls were joined
by a brother about a year before Cafe Mundo began - have taken
turns pitching in at the restaurant in various ways through
the years. "I think it's been really good for them,"
Laurie says. "We're a place for everyone. It's good food,
it's a great place to come. You may walk in feeling like a stranger,
but you leave feeling like family."
Cafe Mundo is located at the corner of Northwest Second Court
and Coast Street in the Nye Beach area of Newport. Specialty
catering services are available, and the facility may be rented
for weddings and other occasions. Wireless Internet access is
available to patrons free of charge.
Regular cafe hours are 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays,
and Thursdays; and 4 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
For more information, call 574-8134 or visit www.myspace.com/cafemundo.
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