It's where you'll find owner and chef Sylvia Gallegos walking about, testing her latest recipes on willing partakers.
"Whenever I try something new, I take samples to everyone around me. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and the Brentwood Press," said Brentwood resident Gallegos. "I tell them to try it. I have fun every day."
Gallegos, a member of the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce, bought the restaurant three and a half years ago. She maintains a breakfast, lunch, and dinner to go with coffee and espresso, but adds Mexican cuisine to her comprehensive menu.
"Everything I make is from fresh ingredients. I never buy pre-made anything. It's all from scratch: dressings, focaccia croutons, even my corn tortillas," she said.
In the food business for over 15 years, Gallegos hails from Michoacan, Mexico. She's one of eight siblings, and the only one to own and run a restaurant.
They tell her "don't work so hard," but when it comes to filling tamales with queso fresco (fresh cheese), Anaheim chili sauce, pork or jalapenos for pre-orders, she can't help but find herself living out her passion as chef.
It's kitchen or bust for Gallegos, who got the bug from her mom.
"My mom had the joy of cooking. She's always offering to cook for visitors. She could be relaxing and watching TV, but when someone comes over, she starts cooking for them right away," said Gallegos.
Help for Gallegos is not far away. Husband Candy, owner of Candy's Landscaping, helps when he can. He just topped her handmade, tiled bistro tables a friend made for her, with Christmas flower displays.
Kenny, her 3-year-old son, also lends a tiny hand.
"He has his own apron and asks, 'Mama, can I clean tables?' He makes cookies, too," said Gallegos, whose son has been around cooking since he was in her womb.
Her restaurant chops came from 10 years service at Chevy's in Alameda. Traveling to LA bakeries helps, too, where she scouts new desserts, sweets she feels her Brentwood customers would love.
"I just tried a turnover with cream cheese and guava in the middle," said Gallegos. "Everything I see I have to buy and try to make it myself, but I do it my way instead."
Once you pop one of her homemade croutons, or sample a forkful of her carrot cake, you'll never be satisfied anywhere else. It's what one of her best friends, a marketing guru, says about her cooking.
"He travels everywhere, and tells everyone about my food. He'll eat at a Mexican restaurant and say it's not as good as mine. He's trying to find one better, but hasn't yet!" she chuckled.
Specialty entrees include turkey and chicken dishes, "Because we smoke them," along with her Caesar salads. And if you're a high school student or staff member with an ID card, she offers an added bonus.
"I give them a discount. They get a huge salad plus a drink for only $6.95," said Gallegos, who hates to see anyone go hungry, especially children. "My son Paul, who goes to Liberty High, gave me the idea. He said the kids don't have much money and they love salads."
Sylvia's Cafe runs more like a restaurant, where Gallegos serves just about any Mexican entree you can think of, including enchiladas, chile rellenos and chile verde. Shrimp cocktail, quesadilla, steak rancheros, even tri-tip are on the menu.
She accepts catering and to-go orders, with cafe prices ranging from $5.95 to $10.95, for shrimp dishes.
Mexican gourmet cooking lessons are next on her extensive menu. "If you want to learn how to make corn tortillas, tamales, salsas, chili rellenos, enchiladas and more, I'll be giving one-and-a-half-hour lessons once a month," said Gallegos.
A certified hair stylist who opened and ran her own beauty salon a few years back, Gallegos realized her true love was in cooking and bringing smiles to those who eat her food creations.
"I do my best every day to make everybody happy," she said. "And the wonderful thing is, I get paid for it."
Located at 313 Oak St., Sylvia's hours are Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and closed Sundays. Call 634-2648.