On a Saturday afternoon at Gilbert’s new Dulce Churro Cafe, families swarm. A small child high on sugar runs in circles chirping, “Churros! Churros! Churros!” He’s just voicing how everyone is feeling, excited as they contemplate menu options or peer into the kitchen window, watching Dulce’s staff fry up batch after batch of crispy treats. As fast as people gobble up their snacks and leave, more come in and order.
“If you think this is busy, you should see us during the week,” says Jared Naumann, who owns Dulce with his wife, Annie. “Every night, there’s a line out the door.”
Jared, Annie, and their sons, Evan and Nyle, work all-day shifts Monday through Saturday to satisfy a seemingly endless local craving for churros. From the looks of it, the people of metro Phoenix have been dying for a dedicated churreria like Dulce, perhaps without even knowing it. Even the Naumann family is surprised by how quickly the cafe has gained a following since its grand opening on March 30.
Churros are abundant in the Valley, but Dulce offers a fresh take on the concept. For one, the churros are all made in-house and to order, never frozen. Naumann always envisioned churro-making to be the focus of the shop, and visitors are encouraged to watch as staff squeeze out the cylinders and loops of dough and drop them into frying oil.
Cooking in pure sunflower seed oil is important to Naumann, too, to differentiate Dulce from places where churros are often prepared in cooking oil left over from making french fries or other items.
Another unique aspect of Dulce is the variety of customized options. Guests can choose from several shapes – such as the tube called the “grande,” loops, and bite-size pieces – as well as fillings, dips, and toppings.
The range of possible creations includes a Nutella-stuffed churro dipped in chocolate and covered in Fruity Pebbles, for instance. Or a loop glazed with icing and coated in marshmallows. The possibilities are many. Dulce also offers churro “bowls” and ice cream sandwiches with soft serve. Basic churros start at $3, plus 50 cents to $2 for each add-on.
So far, the most popular choices are the classic grande, the bites, and ice cream. “I didn’t intend to become an ice cream store, but we sell so much ice cream you wouldn’t believe,” says Naumann.
But what is arguably the shop’s best sweet is the one that started it all. Called the Spaniard, the churros take the form of multiple thin loops, naked of the usual cinnamon and sugar, and served with thick, hot dipping chocolate. The Spaniard is delicate and understated, a refined foil to the extreme sweetness of Dulce’s other offerings.
Naumann and his wife first encountered this style of churro during a trip to Spain in 2016. They were so inspired that Naumann returned there to attend churro school.
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There, he learned that the popularized Mexican-style churros we love today descended from lesser-known traditional Spanish snacks. The word “churro” comes from the Spanish churra sheep, as the food had the same shape as the animals’ horns. That’s where Dulce’s logo originated (also, the outline of the sheep has the shape of a churro).
In addition to Spanish hot chocolate, Dulce also serves Cartel coffee and cold drinks, including horchata, lemonade with Caribbean vanilla, and a yerba mate infusion called terere, among others. The espresso drinks pair especially well with the sweets. During a recent visit, the coffee came with a few churro bites as a bonus.
Dulce Churro Cafe. 674 North Higley Road, #107, Gilbert; 480 981-3628.
Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.