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Cuisines converge at downtown Diversity Café

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Owners Rick and Carey LaFave and chef Duane Vasquez (left to right), have gotten things off to a pretty good start at Diversity Cafe in Hillsboro. Now they just need more people to know theyre open. Duane Vasquez has opened more than 30 restaurants in his career, but this one is different.

He’s opened Thirsty Lions, Red Lobsters, TGI Fridays and more, but he’s never opened one for himself. But after meeting at Forest Grove Assembly of God Church nearly a decade ago, Rick and Carey LaFave and Duane Vasquez decided to go into business together.

They opened Diversity Café, 230 E. Main St. in downtown Hillsboro last month and have been receiving nearly perfect reviews on Facebook and Yelp so far.

Vasquez has been catering the LaFaves’ events for the last decade and they believed in his food so much they decided to invest in opening a restaurant where they could make Vasquez the head chef. Carey has also worked in food service on and off for the last 30 years and wanted to try owning her own restaurant with her husband Rick. The LaFaves’ teenage daughter also works at the café throughout the week and bakes treats on Sundays.

Diversity Café — so named for the variety of cuisines offered — serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They’ll also offer catering for weddings and events.

Vasquez grew up in the area, his family doing farm work in local agricultural fields. He’s been cooking since he was 20, getting his start washing dishes at Disney World and continuing to open restaurants for chains nearly his entire career.

Now 50, Vasquez, says finally, “I get to do it for myself.”

Vasquez has always wanted a restaurant where he could plan his own menu and experiment with his favorite dishes, but he didn’t have the money. But the LaFave’s — who own RDF&P, a high-tech manufacturing company in Cornelius — did.

Now Vasquez is hoping the café will be a nice establishment for customers of all ages looking for an authentic meal. His signature dish is his sherry-cream chicken, which won awards at Portland’s 2009 bridal show. Other menu favorites include his wild southern shrimp scampi and slow-roasted turkey.

Vasquez uses his years in the South to put a southern twist on many of the menu’s offerings. He makes grits, Texas-style smoked brisket and special turkey pot pies. There’s also a kids menu, he said.

The restaurant boasts Greek, Italian, Southern, Mexican cuisine and more.

All 13 Facebook reviews have given the restaurant five stars.

“Amazing food and amazing people!!!! Chef Duane really has an amazing talent and personality!” one Facebook review read.

“I’ve ate here about 7 times, not once have I been disappointed. Friendly staff, great food, competitive prices. Yum!” reads another.

“Thanks for a great breakfast! Excellent chicken fried steak and eggs. Good job on the new restaurant, chef!” the raves continue on the restaurant’s Facebook.

“Diversity Cafe’s prices are excellent as well as the food. We will definitely be returning,” reads one Yelp review.

The one three-star Yelp review complimented the food and service, but downgraded their rating because of the building’s ventilation.

“It’s been a lot of work but it’s been great,” Vasquez said. “It’s a God-driven adventure.”