Sunday, December 27, 2009

Denver al Pastor Part 4: Fine Art and Dining at Taco Veloz

Being a relatively new "blogger", and being almost just as new to the idea of "online communication" outside of the email I use for work, it was somewhat surprising to find myself sitting in a North Federal taco joint with an "online friend": fellow Denver-area blogger and food-illustrating wonder, Riki Takaoka. My mission was twofold: 1) meet Riki and see him draw my favorite food, and 2) eat my favorite food.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to seek out Denver's best tacos al pastor, with the one qualifying rule that said pastor must come roasted on a spit. Here is what I know so far: Taco Veloz on North Federal has the best pastor in the city. There are some close seconds, but in my fourth installment of what will become many more, Taco Veloz is the best and most authentic (edging out Carboncitos and soundly beating Taco Mex, while Tacos Junior cried in the corner and begged for mercy ).

Taco Veloz on that rainy Monday night was pretty lonely. There were one or two other people in there when Riki and I walked in, and a few trickled in when we left, but for the most part we dined alone. Therefore I was able to pick a choice spot that gave Riki an unobstructed view of the spit of pastor, and he immediately set to work by opening his sketch book and spreading some pens on the table.


The taco spit is a little sad. It sits in the corner unadorned, unlit and seemingly unloved; and although every time I have been there it has been well-charred, the flame is off and there is no taquero there meticulously grooming, spinning, shaping and generally caring for it. (I think peak hours may be 2 am to 4 am when the club down the street lets out.) The taquero in the kitchen simply comes out to slice a few pieces off and goes back to the kitchen for the obligatory grilling found only in the hyper-sanitary United States of America. But regardless of the indifferent manner it seems to be treated, and along with the customary overcooking, what comes out is pure delight-- with a big chunk of fresh pineapple on top and handmade tortillas underneath. The salsa bar is extensive as well, and one weekend they even had a large molcajete bowl out with a recently ground tomatillo-avocado salsa that was out of this world for its freshness and taste.

Meanwhile Riki was sketching away. He truly gets inspired by food, and I love how his sketches primarily consist of the most ordinary and everyday food necessities. Milk. Lentils. Hot Dogs. It's a take on the still life, I suppose, putting center stage commonplace objects which are often under-recognized if not plainly ignored in our daily lives. Still life paintings teach us to pause and think about the beauty that can be our day-to-day grind and remind us to appreciate subtle moments in our life. Or something like that. Tacos al pastor are not necessarily a part of everyday life even for me, though arguments have been made (by me with to my wife) that they should be; but they are nonetheless beautiful and under appreciated. Riki, who appreciates even the most mundane of monotonous meals, found these morsels to be particularly inspiring; and never having even heard of tacos al pastor, he was grinning ear-to-ear after every bite; and somehow without soaking his sketch book in taco grease, he made some wonderful sketches like this one. Look at the amazing line work and shading:


As obsessed as I am with tacos al pastor, there is nothing quite like a painting of pastor to hang in my hallway to keep me smiling for the times of my week when there is no pastor. It will have to do until the wife lets me have a taco spit in my kitchen. Here is the painting that resulted from the sketching that he did that evening.

The colors are great, and the whole painting is vibrant, almost jumping off the screen. I particularly like his broad brush strokes and the cartoon-like realism he evokes. (Plus, this painting makes me particularly hungry.)

Since going to Taco Veloz with Riki, everytime I have returned it has been consistently the best pastor I have had in Denver. The taste is perfect. The slices are thin and well charred. The pineapple is fresh, and so are the tortillas. The salsa bar is a bonus. I am still venturing out to new places I have heard about and also to a couple others that I have been to before, but until then, you cannot go wrong with Taco Veloz for an authentic pastor experience.

Holiday season got you in the mood for Tacos al Pastor? Get festive at 5044 North Federal. And what better way to end your New Year's celebration. Open until 4 am.
El Veloz Taco on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tin Star Cafe Donut (& BBQ) Haus

Behind the counter of the Tin Star Cafe Donut Haus in historic downtown Evergreen, CO stands Andrew Schutt. Clad in a backwards Nuggets cap and a striped polo shirt, he leans over the counter in concentration, with Sunday's crossword puzzle spread out on in front of him while the Broncos' pregame show blares on the TV overhead. One large community table sits in the middle of this comfortably cramped and homey restaurant, and two other smaller tables are shoved in the corners. The haphazard decorations on the white wood-paneled walls include a stuffed deer head with a Santa's hat, and the only table decor consists of rolls of paper towels on top of black-and-white checked vinyl tablecloths. The overall vibe is welcoming, and I feel as if I'm going to like it here. Schutt has been up and running for five years now, in what has always been a traditional donut shop in this quiet mountain town. He still makes donuts, but he has added into that mix another passion of his: barbecue.

It goes without saying that barbecue and donuts on their own are two of life's most euphoric edibles, ranking somewhere in the vicinity of chicken skin, tacos al pastor and lechon. But barbecue and donuts together under one roof, although being hazardously close to sensory and saturated-fat overload, very well may be on the list of greatest duos ever. Like Batman and Robin. Or Ren and Stimpy.

Upstairs is more seating.

Speaking of television, it was a famous cartoon character who spoke the following words: "Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?" Well, following that logic (note: following this logic will, with high probability, prove dangerous to your health), donuts and barbecue together are as unstoppable a force as nature can handle. Broken down into another, easy-to-understand television metaphor, it's like the donuts are Superman and the barbecue is the Legion of Justice. (And your stomach the legion of doom). Thusly, the most unstoppable and best crime-fighting item on the Tin Star menu is the Glutton.

The Glutton is the inevitabale dish that gets created when you open a donut and barbecue shop. And you all know where this is going: barbecued pork piled on top of a gigantic apple fritter. I think there is a link thrown in there as well. Wow. I didn't go there this time around, but I did start my day with a beef brisket sandwich.

The beef brisket is smoked well, and the barbecue sauces have a nice sweet tang to them. The spicy version is not really very spicy, but it does have a nice smokiness to it from the added chipotles. My wife ordered the pulled pork, which like the brisket was delicious and tender; and we both got good and messy with our sandwiches, as instructed by Schutt via the directive on his menu ("get messy and enjoy"). Another highlight were the chips that come on the side. They are thick-sliced, entirely homemade and dangerously addictive. After I ate mine, I was completely stuffed yet still managed to eat the majority of my wife's chips too.

As I was in the midst of the messy process of eating, I fired off a question from time to time, and Schutt answered each one in a quiet and blunt, yet friendly manner. "Yes," he makes his own donuts. "Yes," he makes his own chips. "Yes," he smokes everything himself. "Yes," he will smoke any meat you want with enough notice.

"I just taught myself," he tells me in his straightforward delivery when I ask him where he learned to cook barbecue. He is from "around here," but his barbecue is a mix of his favorite styles from barbecue regions around the U.S. He proudly touts himself as Colorado barbecue.

I looked up from the large community table in the room and gazed out on the Sunday morning snow. A family strolled in and joined us at our table. The two teenage sons nabbed the last two giant apple fritters, sat down and quickly set to work devouring what looked like pure pleasure. So despite being completely full, I waddled up to the counter and ordered a few of the little ones. They were sweet and sticky, with chunks of fresh apples baked in. They are some of the better apple fritters I have had and reason enough to make the drive up to Evergreen.


Other items on the menu include pulled chicken as well as a vegetarian option with a mushroom or something. There are a few links options, but this is the one thing he doesn't prepare himself--although he does stay local and get them from someone in Denver. Also on the menu, but not available today, are tamales, filled with one of his house-smoked meats. There is also a wide assortment of traditional donuts that looked just as good as the fritter.

Despite the metaphors I alluded to earlier, to me donuts and barbecue together are more like a plateful of kryptonite. After chowing down on all that food before noon on a Sunday, I struggled out of my seat, and in a semi-dazed state, wandered the streets (actually the street) of Evergreen  with my wife . I toyed with the idea of taking home a couple pounds of brisket, as Schutt sells all of his meat by the pound, but it wasn't happening today. I will be back, however, to try the tamales, grub on some more barbecue and wash it all down with a few fritters. On the way out Schutt reminds me, "Call ahead if you need more than five pounds". Yes, five more pounds of barbecue is exactly what I need.


Tin Star Cafe Donut Haus on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Phoenician Kabob: Middle Eastern on East Colfax

I know it may seem like at times I exaggerate my love for tacos al pastor. In fact, this post really shouldn't be about pastor at all; but if my food-related forays were full circles, they would always come back to eating perfectly charred marinated pork sliced off a rotating spit on a warm corn tortilla with chopped cilantro and onions. Yet sinful lust and gluttony are not the only feelings I have towards these perfectly stacked pork loins. I also have a lot of respect for the complex flavors and secret recipes, as well as a keen interest in the ambiguous culinary history that led to the Mexican delight that I know and love today.

Far back on the Pastor family tree (from wikipedia)

Of all the different versions of the history of al pastor, I will delve into one on this day: It is very likely that the Lebanese first introduced the concept of spit-roasting meat to the Mexicans shortly after immigrating en masse to the country way back in the olden days (thanks to NYC's Bike Snob for the timeline). And it is also likely that this led eventually to the invention of Tacos al Pastor sometime not too long ago, or that is, sometime back in the day. If that were the only contribution the Lebanese made to world cuisine then they could call it good and proudly bask in the glory of what has become a taco institution and my personal all-time favorite. But no, we all know that Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine has been around for the last 7,000 years or so, and has its own glorious traditions that go far beyond shawarma. And luckily for us, many people from all over the Middle East have also decided to move to Denver to cook and sell food. 

As far as Middle Eastern food in Denver goes, much of it is concentrated around the I-25 and Colorado region, a little out-of-the way for me. So when Phoenician Kabob was opened last year on East Colfax by a family of Lebanese descent, I was excited to get there, but with the sloth-like pace I act on my whims, I didn't make it over until early this fall. 

Phoenician Kabob is not on the list of late-night swhawarma stops, and it's prices reflect that. Along with entrées priced from $11 to $16, they have things like tablecloths, cloth napkins, glass drinkware and other fine dining touches. They also have a full bar and apparently on Saturday nights they have belly dancing. Gimmicky, but I don't think belly dancing ever made anything worse. And even without the belly dancing, there is plenty of good food and Almaza, a smooth, easy-to-drink Lebanese beer, to keep one occupied.

After the pig (and in close contention with the skin of a chicken), one of my favorite eating animals is the lamb. They are not only cute and fluffy, they are tender and delicious. And when freshly prepared and not over-cooked they are succulent. Lamb is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine and takes center stage on Phoenician Kabob's menu. On previous visits I have had the lamb kabob and the kafta kabob. The former was well-done, but still tender with a nice char to the outside. The latter, a mix of ground lamb and beef rolled up into something that looks like it could have been used in lieu of a Baby Ruth to clear the pool in Caddy Shack, is often quite dry in many Middle Eastern places, but at Phoenician Kabob is moist and fresh.


Everyone out!

The last time I was there, they had a special on the Lamb Chops and I got that. They were a little over-cooked, but just like the kabob pieces, had a wonderful blackened char crust that was addictive. They came plated with Basmati rice and perfectly sautéed bell peppers and onions that also had bits of the lamb char on them. With the garlic butter-type spread it was all rather outstanding.



The rest of the menu is typical Middle Eastern fare but with some Lebanese touches. Among the appetizers, you really ought to try the pastry specialties. The Manakeish is a pizza-like pastry and ours was topped with thyme, olive oil, olives and sesame seeds. It was very good dipped in the dill-yogurt tzatziki sauce. Also very good was the Ara'yis, ground lamb and beef sandwiched between two thin, crisp and oily pitas. The Fatayer-- a baked empanada-like pastry stuffed with ground lamb, onions and pine nuts-- looked and sounded promising, however, was disappointing because of the hard crust on the tips that bread inevitability gets when it is microwaved too long. And at this I paused and asked our young waitress if these pastries were homemade. She said that they were, and I believe her, but they must have been re-heated in the microwave.

Manakeish

The re-microwaved pastries are forgivable, but this is not: The pitas are not homemade or freshly baked, which is, as my 14-year-old sister-in-law might say if she grew up in the US instead of Mexico, "totally lame". There is a pita factory across the street, so they are likely somewhat fresh, but still they taste like any packaged pita from the supermarket. In fact, they are on the crappy end of the spectrum of store-bought pitas: thin, dry and tasteless. I know it’s probably a pain in the ass to make pitas fresh, but for a more upscale joint like this, I think it should be standard.

Pretty much everything else we ate was good. The chicken kabobs are moist chunks of white meat, the falafel is crispy and well-seasoned and the gyros are tasty thick-sliced hunks of meat, but with the lame pita bread are maybe not worth ordering. The Baba Ganouj is creamy and absolutely divine. It is one of the best I have ever had. So goes with the the Baklava as well, which is served warm and is not too sweet.

I am not one to nitpick restaurants, and I don't mind that the service is exceptionally slow at Phoenician Kabob. The host is welcoming and the wait staff is friendly, and although not entirely attentive, they work hard and are always smiling. But while the atmosphere is warm and inviting, on one recent winter night when we were dining there, the restaurant itself was like an icebox. I'm not sure if this is to cut down on heating costs, or if this is to try and get you to order up another round of Arak, an anise-flavored liquor unique to the Middle East. Either way, the food is good enough to keep me coming back, and if they start baking their own pitas it may well become one of my favorites.

Phoenician Kabob on Urbanspoon Visit the Phoenician Kabob, cradle of civilized dining between Colorado Blvd and Monaco Pkwy on East Colfax; 5709 to be exact. Or on the World Wide Web at www.pkabob.com.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thanksgiving in San Francisco: Colorado Whiskey and Mexican Food

"Who couldn't become ravenous in such a place?" 
-Julia Child

I spent Thanksgiving weekend in San Francisco, the irresitable city by the bay in the magical promised land where everything reaches "epic" proportions (as best described by NYC's Bike Snob). Needless to say, there is so much good food here it is hard to know where to even begin. My original plan was to do an extensive sampling of Bay Area taco trucks and shops, and then compare them to my favorite Denver places. However, I was ironically and brutally sidetracked by, of all things, a bottle of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey.

Image from MetroMix Denver
I always have a bottle of Stranahan's in my cupboard, and it is also my favorite housewarming gift for my friends in distant corners of the country. To me it is one of Colorado's finest exports. Thanks to the ridiculous baggage fees, I waited until landing to get this bottle, and purchased it at a well-stocked liquor store in San Francisco's uppity Nob Hill neighborhood, The Jug Shop. The Jug Shop has a smart whiskey selection and an impressive wine collection-- they even have a rarity in this city: a parking lot. Being a special occasion and all, I sprung for this year's Snowflake batch, which means that this whiskey was finished in some sort of wine barrel after going through Stranahan's unique half Scotch-style and half Bourbon-style custom-made distillery.

I am not an expert in whiskey by any means, but I am a frequent consumer; and my friend that took on other half of the bottle was born and bred in Kentucky, so by birthright he is an expert on American whiskey (sort of like Floridians and Cuban food). Here is what I know: the original Stranahan's is aged in American white oak barrels, and the smoky oak taste is powerful and long-lasting, but the finish is smooth vanilla. This Snowflake bottle, finished in a Cabernet Franc barrel, had a pleasantly sweet aroma and flavor: we came up with bananas. The vanilla is still there, and so is the impressive 94 proof strength. And with a little less smokiness and an even smoother finish than the original, the Snowflake is delicious and goes down easily. So easy, in fact, that it became the beginning of the end of my epic bay area taco tour.

The amount of food I ate that night, along with the dizzying hangover I had the next day left me feeling less-than-ravenous for most of Friday, pretty much eliminating a full day of my taco touring. I never did make it over to the infamous Fruitvale Bart Station area (check out this amazing taco map) and apparently missed out on the finest of the Bay Area taco trucks. I did, however, sample some adequate alternatives in San Francisco's Mission district, and while for the most part epically Californianized, on the whole the food was very good.

A highlight was the taco truck El Tonayese. I think there are two of these trucks and a restaurant of the same name, all within a few blocks of each other. The one we went to was on Harrison and 22nd. Here I tried, of course, pastor. And carne asada. Here "con todo" (with everything), in true California style, means a hell of a lot more than salsa, cilantro and onions; and "epic" would be a fitting word for it: slice of lemon, lime, fresh radish and pickled jalapeños. It was a brilliantly colorful presentation and it tasted good too. This was some of the best pastor I have had that didn't come from a spit. The carne asada was also well-seasoned, tender and tasty.

I also got a chance to sample an "epic" burrito. This was actually a Thanksgiving meal primer that we got on the way back from buying the whiskey. We stopped in at a place called Can-Cun on Mission St near 19th. After we got our food, my friend and Thanksgiving host went into this drawn-out (epic) explanation about San Francisco burritos--something about the rice, something else about what "super" means in a California taqueria... and something else. His talked turned into a Charlie Brown-like teachers drawl as I was completely taken with my very good super burrito filled with pastor--also not spit roasted pastor, but with a decent flavor. And in a burrito it's just another flavor, so I didn't miss the lack of spit-char.

The surprise Mexican food of the weekend came on Saturday morning at the Ferry Building market off the Embarcadero. As we strolled through the stalls looking for something to eat I was skeptical that anything would be good here (only later did I realize that this was the same market that Mr. Bourdain cynically walked through on his TV show only to sort of like it in the end). We stopped in front of this Mexican-looking food stand called Primavera that was trying very hard to look Mexican. A few hipster-types were running the front, but on the back and side tables were a bunch of older Mexican ladies making fresh tortillas, scooping out aguas frescas and in general running the show. We ordered the chilaquiles plate and the tamales. Maybe it was eating our food under the bright morning sun with a crisp sea-breeze blowing across the water, and the impressive bay bridge in front of a cloudless sky dominating our view that made the chilaquiles taste so good; but likely it was because the thick, fresh-made and fried tortillas were incredibly tasty, and had a perfect crunch-to-sogginess ratio that is essential for good chilaquiles. The sauce was excellent too, and so was the rest of the plate: rice, beans, avocados and amazingly soft and fresh-tasting scrambled eggs. Really this is one of the better plates of chilaquiles I have ever had, and with their well-known hangover curing properties I could only look at my plate and wonder in vain, "Where were you the day after Thanksgiving?" The tamales on the other hand were a little dry and the masa fell apart too easily. The taste was good but my wife and I both fought over the rest of the chilaquiles while the leftover tamales got cold on the bench beside us as the boldly intrusive seagulls sat like vultures on a nearby railing, beady eyes fixed on the remains.

Now that's a view. 


San Francisco is an amazing and beautiful city with a famous food scene, and despite my whiskey-shortened taco tour, I did manage a decent sampling of Mexican food. On my final night I did have some pretty average spit-roasted pastor at a place called El Castillito near the 16th and Mission Bart station. The pastor marinade tasted like a spicy tomato paste, and though the meat was well cooked and it looked good, we all know by now that looks can be deceiving. Overall, of course, San Francisco has much more variety and selection than our humble Denver, but when it comes to tacos and burritos, it is comforting to know that Denver easily rivals San Francisco at least in terms of taste, quality and authenticity.

El Tonayese on UrbanspoonEl Toyanese
El Castillito on UrbanspoonEl Castillito
Taqueria Cancun on Urbanspoon Taqueria Cancun
Primavera on UrbanspoonPrimavera

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Buchi, and the Denver Cuban

I don't know many people from Florida, but I am learning that anybody who lives, or has lived at some point in his life, anywhere South, of say, Tampa, is an expert on Cuban food. In fact, if you were actually born and raised in South Florida, you might as well just be Cuban; even if your ancestors trace their roots back six generations to decidedly non-exotic New Jersey, or some other Eastern state that has invaded Florida over the past several decades.


When my wife and I sat down at the bar of the Buchi Cafe Cubano on a lonely and snowy evening a few weeks ago, I thought to myself, "This is a nice Cuban cafe". It was simple but pleasant. There were fun pictures of smiling Cubans on the wall along with Cuban landscapes, dominoes stacked behind the bar, a Cuban flag or two and, of course, a Florida license plate. We struck up a conversation with our somewhat apathetic yet nice enough young server; I wondered to myself, "is this a Cuban family-owned and run place?"

"Is this a family-owned place?" I asked our server.

"Yeah," she said, and with no hint of sarcasm added, "This family from Florida owns it."

OK, I deserve that. "Cuban family?" I asked, hopefully.

"No," she said, and she thought for a moment, as if sensing my disappointment, "But I think the husband-- I think his best friend growing up was Cuban. Or something like that."

See what I mean? This guy is more Cuban than Castro himself. His best-friend is Cuban and he grew up in Florida. I'm not making fun, I just think it's really funny. I actually think there's nothing wrong with that at all, and I laughed to myself for secretly hoping our server was part of a large Cuban family come to Denver to rescue it from it's Cuban-less-ness by opening a cafe in Sunnyside. Anyway, I love the idea of cultures mixing so closely, and it is likely the single greatest thing our country has to offer. And in Denver, a Cuban best friend is certainly Cuban enough to open a Cuban restaurant. And if they make a good Cuban sandwich, all the better.

Cuba. Florida. Nuff said.

I've been wanting to go to this place for a while because I love Cuban sandwiches. Despite what may have come across earlier in this post as skepticism, if you make a good Cuban I will go to your place over and over again until you're sick of me, no matter where you hail from. In fact, my favorite Cuban in Denver has always been at Buenos Aires Pizzeria, and that is an Argentinean restaurant (but more on that later). So give me good sandwich made with pork and ham, press it on a grill, and I'll give you my unbiased yet highly opinionated opinion.

It is no secret what I order and out it comes. Before I get into the details, I would like to wander off on a tangent to clarify something: I could care less about luxuries such as "plates" and "utensils". At Buchi, this, apparently, is a good thing. Our server strolled over with our sandwiches wrapped in paper (like they should be) and sort of slid them down the bar in her (nice yet) apathetic way. This is totally good with me. I really don't need a plate. It just seemed out of place in a restaurant with table service and pretty nice wooden furniture. It is also funny (although the better word is ironic) as they have quite a few nice looking plates behind the bar, stacked on the shelves. (Maybe it's just for the atmosphere, like the dominoes.)


Looks... can be deceiving


So back to the sandwich. I unwrapped it and was surprised to see shredded roast pork, or lechón. Now at this point I was rather emotional and nostalgic, as lechón is like a brother to me. I calmed my excitement and took a bite. Salty. Really salty. And not that good. I tried to like it, bite after odd-tasting bite, but I didn't. A strange and offensive salty aftertaste stayed with me the rest of the night. A Cuban sandwich that I didn't like-- a first for me.

A couple of weeks later I was home and procranstinating some work-related activity; hungry, I started daydreaming of Cubans. I was on-line so started looking up more about Buchi. This place has more hype than the recent Pacquiao-Cotto fight (Pilipino!). And while I am certainly skeptical about hype and popularity, there were way too many ex-Floridians (AKA Cuban experts) who loved this sandwich. Now I'm not Floridian, but I have had my share of Cubans in other parts of the world that Cubans populate, and I like to think that I know what a good Cuban is. The one I had at Buchi the first time around was not one of them, but I caved to popular opinion and went back to give it another try.

I went back on another lonely and snowy weekend evening. I ordered the Cuban and got in the car. My wife was not willing to give them another try, so we were off to get some tacos (and eat them from a plate). I skeptically unwrapped and took a bite, ready to confirm my dislike in the face of all the Floridian fawning this sandwich receives. Surprise. It was much better. It was actually really good. The lechón was soft and tender as before, but was decidedly less odd-tasting. It was mustardy, full of pickles and a little drippy with tender pork juices. Gone was the acrid aftertaste. I liked it. To me it is still not Denver's Cuban savior, but it was a very good sandwich. I still prefer the straight sliced pork, or maybe it is just the way they prepare this shredded pork that doesn't quite do it for me.

And that brings me back to Buenos Aires Pizzeria. I still like their Cuban better, and over the years it has stayed consistent, albeit simple when compared to Buchi. I wrote about the Buenos Aires Cuban a few months ago, and have since been enlightened as to how the sandwich made it on to their menu: before moving to Denver the Buenos Aires family lived in--wait, you guessed it--Florida! Of course. But there's more. The wife of the owner's family is Cuban. According to her, after their time in Miami, "Being a true sandwich lover", her Argentine husband, "immediately appreciated the greatness of the Cuban." So it only makes sense that a Cuban sandwich made by a man who not only lived in Florida, but fell in love with a woman of Cuban descent, would make a truly inspired Cuban sandwich.

Since then I have also had the Cuban at Samba Room, and while I won't say much about it, just know that it too, is at least as good as Buchi's. I should probably go back to Buchi's again to try another appetizer, as the one we had the first night was pretty crappy-- but no one is paying me to do this, so I probably won't. I am talking about the empanadas. They were OK, I guess, but the dipping sauce tasted like putrid curry and I think it was supposed to be a chimichurri-type thing. And this came by recommendation of the server, as "the best thing on the menu." The saving grace was that the coffee was excellent-- the café con leche to be exact. I would like to like this place, so we will probably go back and check out the brunch at some point. And if I'm in the neighborhood and not looking for tacos, I'll try that Cuban again.

You should go and see for yourself, I don't not recommend it, but I can't stand inconsistency. That being said, the coffee was great-- and the second time around, so was the sandwich. 2651 West 38th.
Buchi Cafe Cubano on Urbanspoon

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