When Feroza Saidwan-Carvalho opened Donafe's Cafe in Penal, a town in Trinidad and Tobago, she had no idea that she and her husband Don Carvalho—an account executive at Halliburton—would have to move to Texas for his job. Ten years later, and Saidwan-Carvalho decided it was time to commit to this state by opening a Donafe's Cafe in the Houston area. She's already sold the Penal location and has begun pouring her time and talent into the local shop bearing their names (Don and Feroza combine to make Donafe's). Saidwan-Carvalho tells Eater that Vintage Park's South African restaurant Peli-Peli inspired her to set down roots in that development. She was excited to see "people being open to the South African cuisine," she explains. "So I felt a concept like mine would be successful, too." After conducting a number of focus groups with Vintage Park guests, she noticed that they were very receptive to her food. So, she signed a lease at a small space next door to recently opened Brazilian steakhouse—and April Heatmap notable—Facón Brazilian Steakhouse—where she expects Donafe's to debut by the second week of May.
While Saidwan-Carvalho and her husband are launching the establishment together, once it's up and running she will take the lead, since she says her "strength is in the kitchen, and I'm looking forward to going in there and playing." Expect a menu that includes an international array of desserts, classic American sandwiches as well as some traditional island food. "It's not a Caribbean cafe, but there will be an ode to the culture," she tells Eater. "My main thing is a handheld savory pastries—meat pies—that are similar to kolaches and empanadas but made with flaky pastry and seasoned with herbs and spices that come from Trinidad."
Among the options she's excited to offer is a chicken pie with with a hint of curry, as well as a beef pie with thyme and culantro—an herb that's like cilantro but more pungent. There will also be a "Shark & Bait" sandwich that the owner says is also "an ode to Trinidad" made with fresh fish on ciabatta.
She stresses that, despite numerous taste testings, she's still not sure how widely accepted the Caribbean fare might be, so she's hedging her bets and making sure there's something for every palate. She might not be so sure now, but we're betting locals are ready and willing to try some of her authentic home-cooked fare.
· Donafe's Cafe [Official Site]
· Donafe's Cafe [Facebook]
· All Other Coming Attractions [-EHOU-]