Quick Take:

Paul “Alex” Suniga is branching out from street-food pop-up Masarap to bring the fine dining-inspired Pare for a downtown Santa Cruz residency through June at 11th Hour Coffee and After Hours. “This was a passion project,” Suniga says of striking out on his own amid the pandemic, “but now I’ve taken the next leap.”

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As of this month, Paul “Alex” Suniga is going all-in on his Filipino food business, composed of street-food pop-up Masarap and the fine dining-inspired Pare.

Every Sunday through June, he’ll be doing a residency as Pare at 11th Hour Coffee and After Hours on Center Street in downtown Santa Cruz. Food will be served from 5 p.m. to sellout, except on Mother’s Day, May 14, when Suniga will turn his attention to brunch.

“I have a few staple dishes that will probably stay on the menu monthly, like my adobo dish and ube pandesal (a cheese-filled bread made with purple yam) — but I want it to change based on seasonality,” said Suniga. “May will be more of a spring menu, sourced locally when possible depending on what’s in season at the farmers market. I want to do something light and fun.”

A Filipino dish from Paul “Alex” Suniga
Alex Suniga’s crispy kare kare — lechon kawali (fried pork belly) with eggplant puree, miso peanut sauce and chili oil. Credit: Via Liz Birnbaum, The Curated Feast

Other recent menu items have included lumpia, an ube ice cream dish, and Suniga’s take on pancit canton, a traditional noodle stir-fry.

He’s also working with After Hours to curate a special cocktail menu to accompany the dinners. The menu for this upcoming Sunday, April 30, will be a collaboration with Chubbs Chicken.

Suniga had spent years working in restaurants before starting his own business in 2021 amid the pandemic. It’s been an opportunity to do his style of food and really showcase his roots as a first-generation Filipino immigrant. Now he’s turning that side hustle into his full-time gig.

“This was a passion project, but now I’ve taken the next leap,” he said. “I’m all-in.”

What that looks like is still an evolving proposition. In addition to the weekly dinners at 11th Hour, he’ll also be doing a number of other events, including a forthcoming private dinner at Woodhouse Blending and Brewing on May 29, inspired by a kamayan, a traditional Filipino communal feast where food is served on banana leaves and diners eschew silverware. Details for that event are still being finalized. Other plans include a pop-up at Other Brother Beer Company in Seaside, with more to come.

“I’ve got lots of new ideas,” Suniga said.

For updates on upcoming popups, follow @masarapthehomie on Instagram.

A Filipino dish from Paul “Alex” Suniga
Credit: Via Liz Birnbaum, The Curated Feast

Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...