The first time Spencer Langi tried a Colombian empanada as an adult, he immediately questioned why he had never had one before.

He's had similar experiences with foods from a variety of cultures over the years, ranging from Mexican birria tacos to Vietnamese lemongrass pork and chicken. Now he's hoping to share those flavors with Utahns at his new restaurant, Cafe Limon, in West Valley City.

"I take that feeling and try to emphasize those flavors so that everybody who tries it has the same feeling and it just leaves a mark on you," Langi said. "The idea for me was more of wanting people to try the foods that I've found the most interesting."

The restaurant recently opened at the Franklin Covey West Valley campus. It's a cafeteria style-set up, but the menu — which features Asian, Hispanic, Polynesian and American foods — is a far cry from anything you might have tasted in an elementary or high school dining hall.

"It's kind of all over the place," Langi said of the menu. "But it's really just about bringing the best and mixing that into this type of setting. We wanted to appeal to everyone. You still have that restaurant-type food in a cafe setting."

The variety of flavors is emblematic of West Valley City's rich multicultural makeup. Langi, who is Tongan and Welsh, moved to West Valley City from Hawaii at age 10. The winters were an adjustment, but he eventually grew comfortable calling the valley home.

"I always wanted to open this in West Valley because it's kind of like a melting pot out here, you know, with a lot of different ethnicities. So it's probably the perfect spot," he said "The goal is to get everybody from West Valley."

Food is prepared at Cafe Limon at the restaurant in West Valley City on Jan. 18.
Food is prepared at Cafe Limon at the restaurant in West Valley City on Jan. 18. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The name Cafe Limon (limon is lime in Spanish) represents the fresh items on the menu, said Langi. As owner and executive chef, he plans on switching out menu items based on what's in season. Come spring, for example, he'll be able to get plantains to make patacon, a popular Latin American dish made with fried plantains that are smashed into a tostada shape and topped with meat, onions and other items.

Langi has been in the food industry for nearly two decades and also owns his own catering business. This newest venture is just as enjoyable as his previous experiences.

"It's just always been fun for me, it's like they say, 'Love what you do and you never really work," he said. "It's just faith that it'll all work out I guess."

Cafe Limon is located at 2650 Decker Lake Blvd., Suite 100 in West Valley City and is open 6-9:30 a.m. for breakfast and 11-1 p.m. Monday-Friday.