Downtown breakfast spot reopens with new bar, new dinner service and tales of what to do with 2,000 pounds of green chilies

photo by: Nick Krug

Global Cafe employees work behind the new bar at the restaurant, 820 Massachusetts Street, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017. The restaurant, which had been closed for two months for renovations, recently reopened and will soon add dinner service.

Here is a bit of holiday trivia for you: When you order a southwest dish and get both green chili sauce and red chili sauce, the combination is called Christmas. I call it a $22 dry cleaning bill. Either way, a longtime downtown restaurant that is in the chili business temporarily closed its doors but now is open again with a bit of a new look.

Global Cafe, 820 Massachusetts St., has been closed for the past two months. It recently reopened, and the big change is the restaurant has added a full bar. At first, that may confuse you because Global Cafe is known primarily as a breakfast spot that closes at 2 p.m. I would tell you two things: 1. Don’t judge. 2. The restaurant will soon extend its hours and begin offering a dinner menu. Expect the dinner menu to expand upon the idea of global cuisine.

“Since we are a global cafe, we can really do dishes from wherever we want,” said Kate Gonzalez, co-owner of the restaurant.

Case in point: The kitchen staff currently is fascinated with some Indian dishes and curries, so the restaurant plans to offer some of those as dinner specials when the restaurant debuts its evening hours, which likely will be in early December.

Gonzalez said the plan is for the dinner menu to include some of the restaurant’s most popular breakfast and lunch dishes. (Yes, breakfast for dinner.) The dinner menu will be supplemented with weekly or daily specials that feature entrees from faraway places.

There will be one other regular addition to the dinner menu, though: Gulf shrimp. Gonzalez said the restaurant has reached a deal with a company that will supply fresh shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico.

“We’re going to do peel-and-eat shrimp at the bar,” Gonzalez said. “We’re just trying to bring something different.”

At the bar, things get even more different. The restaurant — which did the remodel, in part, because it has been open for 10 years — has long been known for its green chili sauce. (More on the adventure behind that sauce in a moment.) Now it will use some of its green chilies to serve unique Bloody Marys and margaritas. The bar is stocking green chili-infused vodka and green chili-infused tequila that will be used in the cocktails. The bar also will have four taps for local beers, and at least for awhile one of them will be a green chili-infused beer by the Lawrence Beer Company.

So, what’s the deal with all the chilies? Well, Gonzalez and her husband, Rafael, go to great pains to gets the chilies, so they definitely are going to use them. Gonzalez told me that every September the couple drives a U-Haul truck down to New Mexico where a farmer fills it with about 2,000 pounds of fresh green chilies.

But the fun is just beginning at that point. Upon arrival in Lawrence, the roasting begins on a device that looks a bit like a 55-gallon drum hooked up to a motor that rotates it around propane burners. The drum will hold about 30 pounds of chilies, and it takes about three minutes for the roasting process to be completed.

The fun is still not over, though. Large numbers of friends and family gather for about a week to remove the chilies from the roaster, cut off their stems, remove their seeds and prepare them to be frozen to be used throughout the year.

“Yeah, it is a really big deal,” Gonzalez said.

The green chili sauce is used for popular dishes such as huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos and other Latin American dishes, such as arepas, which are Venezuelan-style dense corn cakes that are topped with a variety meats, cheeses and sauces.

Previously, the only type of sauce available at Global Cafe was the green chili sauce. But now the restaurant has found a good supplier for red chilies (no, it doesn’t involve another trip to New Mexico,) so red sauce is now on the menu.

That, of course, means you can have Christmas all year long. Or, at least, until you run out of clean shirts.