ORIENT — Louis Cruz says he can watch a cooking show and turn around and make that dish without any other instruction.
Cruz enjoys cooking and the small town life he’s found in Orient that he and his wife, Susan, recently purchased the existing cafe there. They’re calling it The Dugout Cafe, and it opened under their ownership late this summer.
“I always wanted to run a restaurant. I got to the point working for other people that it got kind of tiring. This opportunity came up and I jumped on it,” said Louis Cruz.
Cruz worked for an extended period of time at Lakeside Casino in Osceola. While he was never a part of the kitchen staff, he always found himself going to the kitchen to help cook.
“My mom always told me you need to learn how to cook,” said Cruz. “Cooking in general, I just love cooking. I’ve worked retail and have done all that other stuff and decided why not just do this? It’s something that’s mine, that I own, and I take a lot of pride in it.”
Cruz has turned what was once more of a farm themed eatery into a baseball theme.
Cruz first came to Iowa in the late 1980s from a rough neighborhood in Chicago to play as an infielder on the college baseball team at Southwestern Community College.
After his playing days, he was successful as a coach at Orient-Macksburg, when he led the Bulldogs to the state tournament in 2011. It’s still the only time the Bulldogs have made it to state in that sport.
“I’m a baseball fanatic. Baseball brought me to Iowa,” Cruz said. “The first month I was here in college I couldn’t sleep because it was so quiet. I came here, fell in love with the place and my wife. I haven’t left yet. I always say that baseball probably saved my life.”
Cruz said that in restaurant he plans to keep many of the fan favorites on the menu. He’s also brainstorming several other ideas, including one that pays tribute to his Puerto Rican heritage.
“We added some different things to the menu. When the Kramers had it, they had a lot of good things on the menu and people liked it. I hate to take away things people like, and I can cook all that stuff too,” Cruz said. “I added a few different things like taco nights. On Wednesday we’ll do pasta and on Thursdays we’ll do hamballs. As winter comes I’ll add some other things to the menu.”
The Dugout Cafe is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. They can be found by searching The Dugout Cafe on Facebook.
“I’ve always dreamt about doing this. I’d get sidetracked on one thing and sidetracked on another thing, but I always cooked,” Cruz said. “This is the perfect fit for me, I think.”