Even though the Kula Café wasn’t one of the eateries that participated in the Chamber of Commerce Restaurant Tour this past weekend, it very well could have been. Every other Tuesday the Kula Café, located at 1201 Springwood Avenue, offers dinner to the community. It’s known as “Dinner with Chef Bilal” and this week I decided to give it a try. They call it soul food and that’s exactly what it is; good southern food that fills your soul.
The Kula Café, owned and operated by Interfaith Neighbors, is a social enterprise which offers a hospitality training program that addresses employment opportunities for youth in the Asbury Park area. Their menu presents healthy options at a fair price. And the food isn’t just good, the meals are served fresh from the farm, with the produce coming from Kula Urban Farm, (an extension of Kula Café) that sits directly behind the Café on Atkins Ave. The farm is open to the public year-round in the garden and greenhouse. The Café will soon be offering “Farm to Table Events” to the community. You can find more information on their website.
Chef Bilal Mohammed grew up in Asbury Park. An athlete, he was wide receiver for the APHS football team and graduated in 1999. He left Asbury Park to pursue his dream and graduated in 2001 from Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. He was employed by Hilton Hotels in Harrisburg, PA for eight years before coming back to his home town. He began working for Marilyn Schlossbach, owner of Langosta Lounge, APYC, and Pops Garage on the boardwalk. Marilyn thought he was the perfect fit for Kula Café and suggested he apply for the job. Balal was hired and has been the Chef at Kula for nearly two years.
You can get breakfast and lunch at Kula any day during the week, and on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month they stay open late to serve dinner from 4 to 8 pm. The dinner menu this week offered a choice of fried chicken with two sides: mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans; meatloaf with those same two sides; or spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. You could also get a salad, with or without grilled chicken.
Each week there are different items on the dinner menu. Some of the entrees have included sausage, peppers, and onions over pasta; fried whiting with saffron rice; shrimp & crab empanadas; and chicken parmesan. They also offer tacos and a nacho platter. The entrees range in price from $9 to $12, a really great deal.
I took my mom, Terri, with me. As soon as we sat down we were offered water, it arrived in a square shaped bottle with mint leaves inside. It provided an attractive centerpiece for the table as well as a nice minty taste to the water. We both had the fried chicken with mashed potatoes. It was good and filling.
After dinner we shared a brownie for dessert. Tychelle, our server, was more than happy to heat it up for us, which made it especially good. It was moist and fresh, and being served warm made it taste like it just came out of the oven. She provided excellent service and was so sweet to sit and chat with us as I asked questions about the Chef Bilal, truly authentic southern hospitality. I later learned that Tychelle is their baker. She bakes all the desserts.
Tychelle Williams graduated from Asbury Park High School two years ago and has been working at Kula Café ever since. In the fall she plans to attend Brookdale’s off campus Culinary School located in the east wing of Asbury Park High School.
The Café offers a different dessert with each new menu. Their Instagram posts feature delectable desserts and delicious looking meals as well. I’m waiting for the salted caramel apple pie to come back on the menu, and maybe I’ll get it a la mode! According to Chef Balal, their ice cream is homemade. Most of their desserts cost around $2-$3, and $4 if you get it with homemade ice cream. Honestly, you can’t beat it.
The Kula Café offers breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm. When the weekly Concerts return in Springwood Park the Tuesday night dinners will move to Monday’s and they’ll stay open until 8 pm every week. Proceeds from the Café go towards the Kula training program, so don’t forget to support this great initiative for Asbury Park’s youth. You can see menu options for “Dinner with Chef Bilal” on Instagram @Kulacafe. Be sure to #tag me in your posts because I’m coming back!