The siblings behind Wicker Park’s Cebu were enjoying so much success in Chicago that they’ve opened a restaurant in the suburbs. New dessert destination Cafe Cebu opened in November with a rotating selection of Filipino-French treats like crispy ube crinkle cookies, delicate pandan coconut rolls, and halo-halo in suburban Naperville. It’s the brainchild of pastry chef Cybill Tan and her brothers, Malvin and Marlon, co-owners of the modern Filipino restaurant that opened in 2019.
Tucked inside a brick strip mall on Royal St. George Drive, Cafe Cebu has transformed a narrow restaurant space into a wonderland of sweet and savory delights. A marriage of Tan’s French pastry training and deep knowledge of Filipino flavors, the menu is a colorful menagerie that includes cookie sandwiches in flavors like calamansi and matcha white chocolate, all stuffed with the shop’s own ice cream or sorbet.
It doesn’t stop there: cupcakes, salted egg croissants, Thai iced tea panna cotta, pan de sal rolls — there seems no limit to Cybill Tan’s cheery creations. She’s also featuring milk and fruit teas with boba and lychee jelly, along with coffee and nitro cold brew. There’s even a nod to the savory-inclined with beef curry empanadas and longganisa buns.
The suburban cafe draws on the aesthetic of a classic ice cream spot with white subway tiles and counter service, plus some limited seating at two-top tables along one wall. The small space contributes to the often-changing menu, as it doesn’t have a walk-in cooler, Tan told the Tribune, so she and her team are making a limited number of items each day.
The Chicago area’s Filipino population in 2021 is 145,000, making it the seventh-largest in the nation, according to the Pew Research Center. Los Angeles has the largest Filipino population in the U.S. with 506,000. Both the city and suburbs are home to a vibrant Filipino restaurant scene, with recent entries including Kasama in West Town, ranked by Eater this year as one of the Best New Restaurants in America. Filipino bakeries, including Simple Delights Filipino Bakery and Cafe in suburban Morton Grove and Mariegold Bakery & Fast Food in West Rogers Park, are fewer in number but still attract hoards of fans and followers. Of course, Filipino powerhouse Jollibee has made it presence felt around the city after opening its first area location in 2016 in Skokie.
The opening has been a whirlwind for Tan, who in September returned to work after maternity leave. After all the hubbub, she’s not quite sure how it happened, but somehow — despite the COVID-19 pandemic — it’s all come to fruition, she tells reporters.
Take a look around Cafe Cebu and explore some of its menu items in the photographs below.
Cafe Cebu, 790 Royal St. George Drive Suite 117 in Naperville, Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.