Neighborhood Eats: Little Chef Little Cafe offers health-conscious cuisine with Filipino flair

RIVERDALE, Bronx (WABC) -- Little Chef Little Cafe in Queens is like the little engine that could, powering through the coronavirus pandemic by offering healthy and decadent foods as well as some Filipino favorites.

"We've gotten to know every single person who comes to our window," chef Diana Manalang said.

The cafe in Long Island City grew out of Manalang's catering company Little Chef Little Kitchen.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, they offered 12 seats inside the cafe and a menu of salads, empanadas, smoothies, coffee, and baked goods.

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When a Riverdale restaurant space became vacant last year a family that had a restaurant at this very spot 20 years ago decided it was time to try their luck there again.


When the lockdowns began, Manalang's two revenue streams flipped.

"We had planned that catering would be seventy to eighty percent of the business and the cafe would be twenty to thirty and that has flipped completely on its head," Manalang said.

So she added to her cafe menu by digging into her Filipino roots with traditional soups and unconventional tacos.
"There are no tacos in Filipino cuisine, but what we do is make the tacos in Filipino flavors," Manalang said.

Customers canfollow that up with an ube dessert, or any dessert for that matter, which are particularly popular with the kids after school.

And while catering hasn't come back yet, the cafe that she opened in 2019 is the very thing that's kept Manalang and her staff employed and engaged.

"I've been deemed 'Aunty Muffins' in the neighborhood," Manalang said. "That's the biggest reward we've achieved through all of this is we've really gotten to know our clientele."

Little Chef Little Cafe is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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At Dr. Clark, you have to take off your shoes, before you slide into your seating area, which is warm, despite being exposed to the elements.



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