Walking into the small restaurant nestled between Heat Cafe and the City Sports Club office on Shattuck Avenue is like walking into a pop-up carnival. The smell of freshly-made kettle corn and funnel cake batter fill the air and the funhouse mirror located right next to the ice cream stand is reminiscent of the Alameda County Fair on a hot day in June. The overall feel of Endless Summer Sweets is clearly one of fun.
Now, just a year after the grand opening of the restaurant, the owners, Antoinette Sanchez and her husband, Carlos Herrera, are preparing to close down the shop down for three weeks — but not because they are having troubles. Quite the contrary. The couple is flying to Dubai because two food festivals have asked them to come and present their funnel cakes. From Feb. 13 to March 3, Endless Summer Sweets will be closed so that Sanchez and her husband can attend the Love Food Festival in Abu Dhabi and the Eat The World DXB in Dubai.
The idea that her cakes have been internationally recognized makes Sanchez smile.
“Who would have thought that something simple like funnel cakes would have me traveling the world,” she said.
Six years ago, Sanchez was the program coordinator for the Renaissance Entrepreneur Center in San Francisco. She spent her time organizing and planning ways to help others fulfill their dreams and reach their goals. After seeing those around her find so much success and happiness, she decided she also wanted to help herself.
“I would meet someone and they would tell me what they wanted to do, and it was my job to help them as best I could,” said Sanchez. “Time would pass and I would see these people making their dreams into reality, telling me of all the grants they were receiving, the investors, and it was motivation for me to chase after my own passions.”
Sanchez began to think about what she truly cared about and what she would do if given the chance. She thought back to her childhood and how she enjoyed attending festivals and carnivals and her love for the food. That is when she decided she would open her own restaurant and serve some of her favorite carnival-style foods. The most important dish would be funnel cakes.
“I loved going to places like Six Flags and indulging in all the foods there,” said Sanchez. “I can always remember the funnel cake line being extremely long and how much people enjoyed them. I wanted to give people that experience without having to through the hassle of going to an amusement park.”
So with the help of her husband, Sanchez began making funnel cakes from scratch and putting the plans in motion to open her own store. She started off catering at East Bay events and doing pop-up stands at food festivals and farmers markets. Through trial and error, she saw which foods were popular and which were not.
“I was able to figure out what products stuck with my clients, and which didn’t,” said Sanchez. “It was a chance for me to perfect my product.”
That product revealed itself as the Endless Summer Sweet funnel cake. For those unfamiliar with the desert, a funnel cake is a fried doughnut-like pastry that is usually served with powdered sugar, whipped cream, food toppings and (sometimes) some fresh fruit. For most people, funnel cakes are a seasonal food, only to be enjoyed in the summer sun. Sanchez says people shouldn’t have to wait to enjoy the deliciousness that is a funnel cake.
Customers have grown to appreciate the fresh ingredients and made-to-order aspect of Endless Summer Sweets’ funnel cakes. Amber Stewart, a customer and Berkeley native, said the fresh taste of all the food at Endless Summer Sweets is what she likes most.
“With most carnival style food, you’ll see it sitting out under a lamp or some sort of device to keep it warm,” said Stewart. “What I enjoy about Endless Summer Sweets is that they make everything when you order it. That fresh taste really makes a difference.”
Customers who can’t make their way downtown can order the funnel cakes and other sweets through Uber Eats. Or they can visit one of the store’s pop-up locations around the Bay Area, including during the First Fridays events in Oakland.
The extra effort and care that Sanchez and the Endless Summer Sweets team puts into their food has earned them the respect of local customers and now they will get the chance to impress food lovers from all over the world. Committee members from the Love Food Festival and Eat The World DXB were looking for American food companies to feature at their festivals, so they reached out to La Cocina, a nonprofit food incubator in San Francisco. When members from the festivals explained the type of food they were looking for, La Cocina knew just who to call.
“La Cocina has been really helpful with building the Endless Summer Sweets brand,” said Sanchez. “When the food festivals contacted them, they asked if we were interested, and we knew we couldn’t miss this opportunity.”
When she returns back to the Bay Area from the food festivals in March, Sanchez is hopeful that she and the rest of the Endless Summer Sweets team can continue to provide a fun experience and good food for all those that come through the doors of the restaurant. Although they’ve only been building the family-owned eatery for a year, Sanchez is optimistic about what the future holds.
“I love the support we get from this community, whether it’s the high school students from down the street or the families that come here,” said Sanchez. “The city of Berkeley has done nothing but support us. I would love to keep feeding the beautiful people of Berkeley.”