Little Chef, Little Cafe wants to become a Long Island City staple

diana manalang
Photo: Angélica Acevedo/QNS

Little Chef, Little Cafe has served up health-conscious sweet and savory treats for about four months right off of Vernon Boulevard. 

The cafe was the next step for Diana Manalang, a self-taught chef with more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality business. Manalang ran her own catering and meal prep business (Little Chef, Little Kitchen), for about two years, and said she wasn’t in a rush to find brick and mortar for a cafe. But when the space that she’d been stalking for four years became available, she knew it was the right time to move in.

“Everything’s either on Vernon, or on the center or on either side of the street — there’s nothing right in the middle here. So I thought it’d just be nice to have a little coffee shop,” Manalang said.

The bright, intimate cafe with wooden accents is located at 5-43 48th Ave., only a three-minute walk from the 7 train. Their daily menu has all your classic cafe offerings — breakfast empanadas, coffee, smoothies, acai bowls, baked goods and soups — but when it comes to ingredients, Manalang likes to keep it fun and seasonal.

Photo by Joshua Scherr

And because the cafe doesn’t have a full kitchen, Manalang gets creative by using the oven to bake her empanadas (they have four variations that range from $3.50 to $4.50, including bacon, egg and cheese and veggie).

“We gear a lot toward being able to cheat a little bit without feeling guilty and also be able to give your kids a little sweet treat without it being an overload of sugar,” Manalang said.

The cafe also offers ready-to-eat prepared meals that change every day, such as turkey bolognese with veggie noodles and lemon rosemary chicken, cauliflower mash and green beans. 

Although Manalang isn’t a nutritionist, she often consults with them and does extensive research in order to ingrain healthy options in her menus. Most of their meals align with paleo diets (which promotes eating mostly lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds), and Whole30 diets (which is designed to remove inflammatory foods like legumes and artificial sugars).

“But it still tastes good,” Manalang said. “It’s clean eating and preparation.”

Photo by Joshua Scherr

As a proud dog parent, Manalang dedicated a wall for photos of the neighborhood’s furry residents. They even have a takeout window that’s meant for fellow dog parents who might be walking their pup and want to grab a coffee while they’re at it.

Manalang wants to be a staple in Long Island City, a neighborhood she says is “big and small.” They’ve open their doors for different opportunities, such as hosting birthday parties for neighborhood kids as well as partnering with Gantry Kids and Teens and the Girl Scouts to promote cooking education.

“We do a lot to give back to the community,” Manalang said. “If you want to be part of the community, you really have to be part of a community. We can’t just pretend to be.”

Little Chef, Little Cafe is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, visit littlecheflittlecafe.com or email info@littlecheflittlecafe.com.

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