There will not be a huge midway with funnel cakes and fried Oreos this season: The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been canceled due to COVID-19. But residents of the East Aldine are able to get both decadent treats.
At the Big Kahuna Hut, located at 11902 Aldine Westfield Road, those rodeo favorites can also be washed down with a cup of good coffee or a restorative and healthy cup of tea – thanks to the new “pop-up” shop, Café Guadalupe.
Kevin Macias, the proprietor of the Big Kahuna Hut, has opened his doors to welcome Monica Cortez, the health-conscious barista behind the coffee bar known as Café Guadalupe.
The duo is offering the neighborhood a choice between wickedly wonderful hamburgers, hot dogs, smoothies and banana splits or simply sublime coffee, restorative teas, lattes and gluten-free pineapple upside-down cake.
Macias, 21, the youngest entrepreneur in a well-known Aldine area family, is a hard-working short order cook who specializes in smoothies, shakes and banana splits. His concoctions include the popular mangonada, a fruit-based drink topped by fruit and tasty gummy candies.
“I like it when it’s a little busy. That’s when I feel like I’m really ‘in the moment,’ ” Macias said.
Macias is also confident that he can master the art of making fried Oreo cookies to fill the rodeo void.
“I will be offering fried Oreos,” he said with a big smile.
At lunchtime, his pineapple-flavored hamburgers, accompanied by fries and a limonada, are a neighborhood favorite. The all-beef hot-dogs, topped by chili, cheese and jalapeños, are a close second.
That’s where Cortez comes in.
Several years ago, the mother of teen-age daughters Melody and Miranda began researching healthy food alternatives for the girls ,who suffered from severe allergies and asthma. Cortez’s research led to studying herbs and spices that would prevent or alleviate the girls’ breathing problems.
She offers “Musicians Tea” as a remedy for upper respiratory problems. It is a blend of oregano, anise, ginger, purple onion, elderberry and cinnamon. She recommends her customers use boiled alkaline water to brew the tea for three days.
“They seem to love it,” Cortez said. “When people drink it, their brain is telling their body that it is good for them. So, they don’t mind the taste.”
Her second concoction is “Miracle Tea,” a blend of herbs aimed at targeting inflammation in the body, Cortez said.
“If you target inflammation, it will relieve all kinds of problems from chronic allergies to asthma to arthritis,” Cortez explained.
Her Miracle Tea can be served hot or cold.
“This tea is designed to clean protein levels in the brain, so it’s also good for memory,” Cortez said.
It can be served with honey and lemon to improve the taste.
Cortez said her fledgling business is named for a favorite aunt, Guadalupe.
“One of my most vivid memories of her is how she showed me to make a Bundt cake,” Cortez said.
A deeply spiritual woman, Cortez’s business has a motto, “Faith in a cup.”
“It started out as a slogan, but it has evolved into something more beautiful. We offer the people who visit us the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ so that if someone cannot afford a cup of coffee or tea, then we can offer it to them at no charge,” Cortez explained. A small “lending library” near a big coffee table includes Bibles that her customers can keep.
The table also holds stacks of business cards for her neighbors’ businesses, another way she pays it forward to the Aldine community.
The recent “big freeze” left many of her neighbors without heat and light, and that most vital staple for a Texas ice storm – hot coffee.
Cortez, a former Uber driver, laughed: “I was out there on the ice, making deliveries. It was wonderful.”
When spring finally rolls around and as the pandemic lifts, Cortez said she is looking forward to offering catered “Victorian” teas for ladies’ gatherings, parties and showers in the area.
For now, Macias said, “I think our two businesses really complement each other. We really did have a lot of customers who wanted coffee. Now, I think we will have more people coming in to just hang out and visit, or work on their homework.”
The Hut does offer wi-fi, and some students have started using it recently.
“We just thought it was a good idea to make it work together,” Macias said.
Big Kahuna Hut with Cafe Guadalupe
11902 Aldine-Westfield Rd.
Open Sundays-Fridays 2-10 p.m., Saturdays noon-10 p.m.
Cash only for now.
— by Anne Marie Kilday