IT TAKES A TEAM TO TANGO
by Denise Sullivan
HURLEYVILLE, April 2022 — Stepping into the Tango Café is a lovely sensory experience – the place is light and airy with large windows, savory aromas from the open kitchen design and soft music playing in the background. An integral new part of the Hurleyville Performing Arts Center (HPAC) on Main Street and Railroad Avenue, the café is located behind, and is a compliment to, HPAC, as well as a new restaurant for the community to discover as it continues to increase its hours of operation.
Like dancers on a ballroom floor, the Tango café and the arts center are separate but moving together under the leadership of Janet Carrus, founder and artistic Director of HPAC. As pandemic restrictions fall away, HPAC is now open for movies and events, while the Tango Café, in its soft opening phase, is offering food and drinks on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Both the chef and general manager of the Tango Cafe are new, but bring to the team years of experience. Chef Jonathan Martinez is a Sullivan County native with over 20 years in the world of hospitality and food, including time in the military, growing food, butchering, running his own food truck, and working as a sous chef. He learned about the industry as a kid when his parents worked at local hotels like Kutchers.
Chef Martinez was voted “Best Chef’ in the River Reporter’s 2019 poll, and had a hand in winning both “Best Restaurant” and “Best New Menu” while at other eateries. Friendly and enthusiastic, he says he was at a post-COVID crossroads when Tango Café approached him – the perfect time for him to take on a new adventure where the menu is exclusively his own. After seeing so many people in the industry pivot or leave the profession in recent years, the chef is eager to “bring the love back to cooking and eating.” Watching him work while occasionally interacting with diners in the café is a treat.
Just as in dance, timing is everything in life. Joy Leon, the new general manager, also had a “right time and place” moment when she came to Tango.
She has a wide range of experience in hospitality, from catering weddings to restaurants and retail, as well as in mentoring at-risk local teens. Ms. Leon is calm and graceful, and as the manager, she fills in wherever needed, with the enviable skill of remembering orders without writing them down. She is looking forward to seeing how Tango fits in with other local restaurants, and is considering the possibilities of offering lunches and being open on days when others eateries are closed. The team at Tango would like to mentor local culinary students at the high school and college level, guiding young people who are just starting out in food service.
The Tango Cafe is open Fridays and Saturdays, 4 to 11 p.m. (kitchen open until 10 p.m.). Starting April 4, they will host Open Mic Night on the first Monday of each month, and Trivia Night on the third Thursday, beginning April 21. The Tango Café will host the Chamber of Commerce’s First Friday Breakfast on May 6, with a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony to be announced soon after.
Walk or dance up the path and into the Tango Café—it’s another cool gathering spot in the happening hamlet of Hurleyville!