Ana Borrajo is a free-spirited, globetrottin' foodie. Her first foray into the local food scene was via Sapna's Chillout Café at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market. Every Saturday lines of people four deep would wait patiently for the Grenada, Spain native's exotic juices, Spanish regional favorites like potato and tomato Andalusian stews and fresh salads. After an entire year toiling in construction, and local government's tangled building permit and inspection system, Ana's new spot, Sapna's Café (1301 NW Grand Avenue, 602-254-6726) finally opened in the historic Bragg's Pie Factory Building.
Back are the fresh citrus juices, lassis (a tangy fruit and yogurt drink), and Moroccan mint teas that made her a market favorite. Add to that a whole slew of new favorites, like the Calcutta Egg Roll, an Indian breakfast burrito-like creation, or spicy baked eggs, and you'll be hooked. With a menu laid out like a backpacker's itinerary, Ana's food is a nod to street food found the world over. Bring your laptop and use the free wifi; the brie quesadilla with onion marmalade will inspire you to hit the road, and there's no time like the present to plan your trip.
Chow Bella: What does Sapna mean? Ana Borrajo: I was living in India, and it was a nickname that they gave to me. It means 'dream'.
CB: Are you a big dreamer? AB: (laughter) Actually I just found out lately that's what it means. I thought it was a girl's name.
CB: Your food is pretty global, what inspires you? AB: I'm basically a traveler at heart. I'll usually work around the clock for four months, many many hours and then I will just travel the world for eight months, and then start again. My father's sister was a great cook and I was always watching. When I travel I want to eat! The food is the best part. When I travel, I don't want to be with the tourists, I want to be with the people. In Calcutta, I worked with a vendor for a week. He kept asking "Why are you working for free?", and it's because I want to learn.
CB: You're not going to leave in four months to travel again, are you? AB: (laughter) No, no, I'll be here with the restaurant.
CB: How did you end up in Phoenix? AB: I was living in Sweden at the time, and I hated the cold. I met a guy and he was from here. I thought the desert was always hot so I moved. But I found out the winters here are very cold! My first winter I was like a tourist in t-shirts and shorts. But this time I was all bundled up and freezing!
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CB: That's when you know you are really a Phoenician - when the winters here seem cold! AB: (laughter) It's true. This year I was covered up.
CB: How did you end up working on Maya's Farm? AB: I was burnt out and didn't want to work in a kitchen any more. I started growing herbs in my kitchen and I met Maya. Her vegetables tasted so much better than others because you could taste how much she loves them. So I started helping and was at the Downtown Public Market and I thought, "there's no food...." Then the next thing I know I have a small café at the market. (laughter).
CB: Have you worked in restaurants before? AB: Oh yes, I had a restaurant in Spain. I had many partners and it was bad. Now I know I will be very tired but at least I don't have business partners.
CB: How did you end up on Grand Avenue? AB: I was in another part of town, and people at the market asked me if I would have a restaurant and I said, "No, no, no, no." Then one day I woke up and thought about a restaurant. I looked on Craigslist and then I saw the place and I was like, "Yes!"