Monday, April 4, 2011

Café San Juan, 3549 Burlingame Ave SW - 3/3/11

This little restaurant was a very happy discovery. It’s difficult to notice from the street, and the place is small, holding five booths/tables. Two TVs were playing old Dennis the Menace shows. Sports decor and other miscellaneous items fill every open wall space. When we arrived, no customers were there and the owner was running the vacuum.

The menu is large and offers Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Cuban dishes. Our server/owner/chef was very friendly and helpful. We started with appetizers: an empanada, and a plaintain with ground beef. Unlike most Mexican restaurants where the food appears instantly, your food here is prepared fresh. And these appetizers were amazingly tasty and well prepared.
For our main dishes we settled on a pork taco dinner, with an added beef enchilada, and a roast pork dinner. Ordering tacos at first seemed like a mundane choice but these were so worth it. The tortillas were fresh, and the flavors of both the tacos and the enchilada were something you won’t taste in most Mexican restaurants, and certainly not in the ubiquitous fast food chains.
The roast pork dinner was just as good. When asked what the spices were, the owner/chef laughed and said he could not tell us. Fair enough. The dinner arrived very well presented with a slice of fried banana.
Both dinners were accompanied by refried beans and rice, and these were not the usual micro-waved, bland slop that people are served and consume without objection elsewhere. Flavor and fresh preparation were the distinguishing characteristics. The pork dinner also included a fresh salad, seasoned with a house dressing.

Jaime Martinez has been in business 13 years and is a very personable and informative man (except for ingredients :). Only the catering menu is online and it lists the Mexican and Puerto Rican dishes. The restaurant has a twitter presence but hasn’t posted anything in about 3 months. So visit in person and enjoy some freshly prepared and delicious, authentic food.
Cafe San Juan on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Hello. Love your blog. I'm from Puerto Rico and I moved to Grand Rapids a year ago. I was so happy when I found out about this place. The food is great and the owner is super friendly (and he played baseball with Roberto Clemente's uncle in PR). One small correction: you had fried plantains, not fried bananas. It's a staple food in the Caribbean and they are delicious!