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Teens Flock To Cardinal Cafe In Pompton Lakes

Gladys Ibarra and her husband have owned The Cardinal Cafe in Pompton Lakes for 18 years.
Gladys Ibarra and her husband have owned The Cardinal Cafe in Pompton Lakes for 18 years. Photo Credit: Lauren Kidd Ferguson
The Cardinal Cafe has been a mainstay in downtown Pompton Lakes for about 40 years.
The Cardinal Cafe has been a mainstay in downtown Pompton Lakes for about 40 years. Photo Credit: Lauren Kidd Ferguson

POMPTON LAKES, N.J. -- If you hunker down for a mid-day meal at Cardinal Cafe on Wanaque Avenue, be ready to wade through a flock of teenagers.

This 30-year borough hallmark serves breakfast and lunch, and does takeout. It's open daily and enjoys a hefty following from Pompton Lakes High School whose students can go off campus for lunch.

Though called a cafe, it harkens a luncheonette or small diner, from a different era because of how young people seem OK gleaning advice from adults, albeit not their parents.

The draw are feisty burger plates, grilled sandwiches, quesadillas and other robust meals at lean prices. But also is the free-flowing stream of ideas between Gladys Ibarra and her young patronage.

Gladys and husband, Manny, bought the restaurant 18 years ago.

When the Ibarras took over, their only son was just eight-years-old.

"He's all grow up and lives on his own and doing well," Gladys began an interview.

"So the high school kids are my kids," she continued.

"Right now I was talking to somebody who wants to get married. I have been watching (some of them) grow up. I've been asking them how they feel. And I worry. I feel they trust me. They believe me and ask for my advice," she said in a phone conversation from the restaurant.

"If I can advise somebody something, I will. I can listen. I listen when they're sick and when they're happy I listen. Here in my job I talk to people. I talk about anything. When you talk to people you listen to them," Ibarra explained.

"And I listen to them and learn from them. They taught me to be a good mother. They taught me to listen. When my (son) had problems, sometimes I would yell. I Learned from them to listen. I did a good job."

If Ibarra could sum up her philosophy, she might say it does take village to raise a child. The way she sees parenting, "Fifty percent is from the parent and 50 percent is form the school and (people's) advice."

She's even hired her young patrons. And some from the earlier years have returned to The Cardinal Cafe with their own kids, according to Ibarra.

Communication, she said, cannot take place with distractions.

One of the ways she engages her young customers is by insisting they turn off their cell phones when in the restaurant.

"It's so they can talk to each other and other people."

"High school kids are my life," said Ibarra who was a lawyer in Ecuador.

The Cardinal Café is at ’278 Wanaque Ave., Pompton Lakes, N.J.

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