Babaloo sign

For years, Gladys Parada dreamed of opening a simple lunch cafe. She'd perfected a basic menu of sandwiches and a soup-of-the-day in her years with a food truck. And when The Press Club in Seaside became available, it looked like a long-time dream come true

Parada was onto the final improvements she needed in order to pass her Health Department inspection when the pandemic came, and Health Department hours became limited and non-essential efforts—like opening a new restaurant in the middle of a public health crisis—seemed less urgent. She wasn't sure how long it might be until she could get an appointment with the health inspector to sign off on final updates. 

So she'd already resigned herself to not opening, until her health inspector called her on a rainy morning on March 27 with an idea: Could Parada FaceTime her? 

“She said, ‘show me the kitchen, the coating on the floor, the prep sink and hot water,’” Parada says. The hardest part was holding the phone and a thermometer at the same time, but she captured the 120-degree water, and bam—she was cleared for her final inspection with the city of Seaside. (At City Hall, she had to file papers through a mail slot, no in-person service.)

She opened on Monday, April 6, offering her full menu: four Cuban sandwiches ($8.75), a noodle bowl ($7.50), sweet plantains ($3.75) and a soup of the day (on Tuesday, it was black bean soup, $5.50). There's a selection of beers and a few fizzy juice drinks also on offer.

The cafe is not open for seating, in keeping with the county's shelter-in-place order. Instead, Parada has rolled up the garage door, decorated with potted flowers and a colorful umbrella, and is taking to-go orders through the window. Her partner, Terry Ackerman, is on a ladder hanging decorative paper lanterns from the ceiling, using his fishing pole. "Without a golf course and fishing, he was going crazy," Parada says.

There were only about 10 customers on day one, but she says she still feels like despite opening in these conditions, she's doing what she should be: running a lunch cafe. 

"This incarnation of Babaloo is what I always dreamed of, from the first time I thought of having my own business," Parada says. "I feel like I’m in alignment. It took this long to figure it out."

What about the pandemic, that's thrown everything out of alignment?

"It strips everything down to its bare essence," she says. "If you stop and think - every person in the universe right now is affected by the pandemic. We are connected. If you’re not doing what’s true to you, then what are you doing? We might friggin' die. This is just what I’m going to do, for the rest of my days."

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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