Café Secret  Cocina Peruana 1

Café Secret Thrills Del Mar With Delicious Peruvian Cuisine and Romantic Charm

This is one secret that can’t be kept quiet – from the moment I sat down in Café Secret, the culinary delight began.  It took only seconds for Café Secret’s ambiance and delicious aromas to romance me.  Sitting in the corner, I felt “tucked in” to the patio among its colorfully dotted foliage circling its way up the terrace and I allowed myself to take a mental journey far away while listening to the guitar-duo strum Latin-influenced tunes. A carafe of perfectly-blended homemade sangria and appetizers sealed the deal – I didn’t want to leave. Luckily, it turns out Café Secret’s owners, Bratzo and Daniella Basagoitia, don’t want their guests to leave either.

The whole premise of this Peruvian restaurant is based on the couple’s shared love of cooking for friends while enjoying long evenings of authentic home-made Peruvian dishes and conversation. It’s a true experience to dine at Café Secret, and it is meant to be. The staff is genuinely friendly and diners feel the warmth and sincere hospitality in the air.

“The whole vibe here is to make you feel like you’re having dinner at our home,” Daniella says.

You’ll definitely enjoy the delicious food, delightful drinks and breathe in the charm of this little slice of Peru sitting right on Camino Del Mar. Yes, this is the “refuge-like” restaurant that Del Mar locals keep raving about to friends. In fact, one such resident, Diane Hoyt, loves it.

“After being here, I have to go to Peru,” Hoyt says. “They’re so accommodating. Café Secret is not commercialized; the people are genuine and the food is amazing.”

Indeed, the food is legitimately mouth-watering. And most recently a scrumptious happy hour was introduced from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The menu items include many restaurant favorites such as the oh-so-tender Beef Empanada (made with ground sirloin). Each empanada is made from scratch with each dough piece individually pin-rolled, hand-folded and filled.  The quality is obvious upon first bite. It is light within its beautifully baked pastry shell – this empanada literally melts in your mouth. Then there’s the out-of-this-world Prawns Al Ajillo which are sautéed with garlic butter, wine and aji Amarillo – an imported Peruvian chili pepper, the aji Amarillo is the “soul” of the Peruvian cuisine, $7.

Also among the favorites are the delicious Scallops Au Gratin covered with parmesan cheese and lime juice, $12; the Clasico Fish Ceviche, $13 (always a fresh and local catch of-the-day); and a vegan-friendly and gluten-free Quinoa Tamale cooked to perfection with fresh cheese, aji and cilantro, $7. Then there’s the happy hour sangria, house wine and mimosas for only $5, or the yummy Peruvian beer for only $3. Basically, everyone in town is scrambling to get off of work early and head to Café Secret. (And for good reason.) The food is simply the best Peruvian-inspired recipes in San Diego, period. Nothing comes out of that kitchen without being prepared to perfection – the food is as fresh as the presentation is fantastic. Naturally, the lunch and dinner menu is a wonderful extension of the delightful happy hour menu. Entrees include fresh fish, Peruvian specials such as Lomito Saltado (filet mignon stir-fry with veggies and aji pepper, fried yucca and garlic rice), Macho, Arroz Con Pato and many more.

Peruvian food, like the Peruvian culture, is elaborate and full of heart. Anyone will feel at home in Café Secret, and that’s exactly what the dynamic Daniella and Bratzo duo intended to accomplish. They’ve done it with great flair and incredible humility. Bravo to six delicious years in Del Mar!

Café Secret is open daily for lunch and dinner; it closes at 10 p.m. On Saturday and Sundays it boasts one of the best breakfasts in town starting at 8 a.m. Feel free to come either in jeans and flip-flops or a dress and heels; either works just fine. Live music is on Tuesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Their new happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Café Secret is located at 1140 Camino Del Mar. 858.792.0821