South Berkeley residents rejoice, Mexican brunch has arrived. Tomorrow (June 5) longtime caterer Los Cilantros launches a full breakfast and lunch menu at La Peña Cultural Center. It's a sweet homecoming for chef and owner Dilsa Lugo, who's raised two kids in Berkeley while cooking at Copita in Sausalito and working with kitchen incubator La Cocina to launch her own business.
Before Lugo made the Bay Area home in 2003, home was Cuernavaca. True to her mother's influence, Los Cilantros will be serving regional specialties with a focus on high quality ingredients -- and there won't be cutting any corners.
"We were nine kids growing up, so my mom was always in the kitchen," she says. "My dad grew his own corn and our tortillas were always made by hand and fresh. I loved making tortillas, who knows why!" Homemade corn tortillas and tamales are accompanied on the menu by other labors of love, like 5-hour slow-roasted carnitas. Expect specials like barbacoa, pozole, and mole to pop up too.
Still, the menu highlights what Lugo describes as simple cooking: breakfast dishes like chilaquiles, quesadillas, and arroz con leche, and tacos and tortas for lunch. Where possible, Lugo sources ingredients from local farms.
Decor is still a work in progress here, but for anyone who's been to the space previously, you'll note a new front entrance that lets in much more natural light. If it's your first time, be sure to peek under your plate while sitting at the glass tables: you'll find posters of the many artists and activists that have come through La Peña's doors since its founding in 1975.
Los Cilantros is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Friday from 8 am to 2 pm, and weekend brunch from 8 am to 3 pm. Currently cash only.