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Crave-Making Cuisine

Impress Your Date by Sampling Latin and Vietnamese Fare at Dulce

When Dulce Bakery & Café opened in Downtown Somerville last February, it became the “Instagrammable” spot where patrons could sample a diverse menu of Vietnamese influence and Latin flare.

It took me much longer than I had hoped to make my official visit, but I finally had the pleasure of meeting Belle Mateo, a Dominican baker who co-owns Dulce with Mydung Ha, who is Vietnamese. 

When you walk through the doors, Mateo’s vision and the décor sets a tone like no other. While the space itself is basic—an open-concept shell, wood flooring, white walls and an exposed brick accent wall—it’s the color pops makes this café so unique. From the bright-pink accent sofa under a neon light that urges “Take a Seat Sweet Cheeks” to a staged piano and a mural portrait of Mateo with greenery as hair, each pocket has its own vibe and makes you feel like you’re in a different space, depending on where you sit. 

What I had expected to be a quick visit with some bites and a beverage turned into quite the tasting experience. I tried menu staples, fan favorites and weekly specials. Fast-forward hours later: I left with a full belly and feeling like part of the family. 

My taste buds were not prepared for this menu; many flavors and textures were new to me. The first thing that caught my eye was Dulce’s drink menu. As an iced coffee fan, I opted for the iced Vietnamese coffee, which is traditionally served cold and was impressively strong by way of a drip technique, incorporating rich flavor and mixed with a condensed milk for some sweetness. After this, I was fired up and ready to take on any pastry that came my way.

I went down the counter window and basically tried one of everything. The Chicharron de Guava (Guava Cinnamon Stick) is a traditional Colombian sweet puff pastry. I had tried one of these for the first time earlier this year while traveling in Medellín, Colombia, and my gosh, this brought me right back with its buttery layers of flakes permeated with guava paste. 

This pastry set the tone for the rest of my experience as I moved on the Pandebono, one baked with four Colombian cheeses and another with cheese and guava. Wow. I have never tried something so magical with the recoil of a Tempur-Pedic pillow. This pastry got bonus points for being gluten-free. Next, I transitioned to one of the Vietnamese pastries with a flaky exterior and filled with veggies, ground pork or cheese. I selected the pork and found it sensational. 

And how could I resist the empanadas? You can see the crunch on the shell of these chicken- and beef-filled delicacies from their display. I chose the beef empanada and probably could have had three, but then I would have needed a nap there in the kitchen. 

For the finale, I had a visually and tastefully pleasing dessert: an airy cake layered with pistachio and ricotta creams separated by sponge cake with a crust decorated with crushed pistachios for added texture and dusted with powder sugar. I washed it down a cup of café con leche, a Spanish drink made with local beans and equal parts milk. 

I encourage you to visit—and better yet, bring a date for cute photos. Keep an eye out for Dulce’s pop-up events—they’ve hosted salsa dancing and a Barbie-themed night—or host your own private event. 

Food writer Kyle Getz (The Tipsy Critic) discovers New Jersey’s top spots and hidden gems. Follow his blog on Instagram @tipsycritic.

View the menu at

Conejo Malo

2 c all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda 

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon 

3 large eggs

2 c sugar

3/4 c buttermilk

3/4 c vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 c grated carrots 

1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 (3 1/2 oz) can flaked coconut

1 c chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Combine the first four ingredients in a dry bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the next five ingredients. Carefully blend both mixtures. Gradually incorporate the last four ingredients until fully blended. Pour the batter into two nine-inch pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Enjoy the delightful aroma of homemade carrot goodness as it bakes. Que rico! 

  • Belle Mateo
  • Belle Mateo

My taste buds were not prepared for this menu; many flavors and textures were new.