Monday, August 6, 2012
Food truck review: Cafe Con Leche
Café Con Leche is the art of Cuban cuisine.
Cuba, an island nation just 90 miles off our southern shores, remains a mystery to most Americans due in large part to the country being closed to travel from America for decades. Dallas gets a peek into Cuba, or at least their cuisine, since Café Con Leche came to town. A relative newcomer to Dallas, Gabriel Martinez and the Café Con Leche truck are veterans in the burgeoning food truck phenomenon having started in Los Angeles and participating in the second season of the Great American Food Truck Race. Gabriel and the crew did not win the reality show contest, but Dallas is a clear winner by having Café Con Leche come to town.
The menu is a classic Cuban menu that includes appetizers, Cuban sandwiches & desserts, and Gabriel’s own blend of Cuban Coffee served hot or cold.
The selection of appetizers on any given day might include stuffed-yucca beef papa rellenas, empanadas, or ham/chicken croquettes. Today, the choice was easy – I had the empanadas. These are available with a variety of stuffing, but it was the guava/cheese style for me. I got two and it was a hit & a miss siutation since the guava jelly seemed to have leaked out of the first one. But the second one? Ummmm, heavenly. Sweet, sensational guava jelly fused with creamy, smooth cheese inside a light, flaky crust melted in my mouth. I could really do with another one, maybe two, right now!
Next, I sank my teeth into the El Manolo: tender, succulent marinated grilled steak topped with Swiss cheese, tomatoes, grilled onions with a special sauce on a grilled Cuban bread. This one is named after the character in Scarface played by one of Gabriel’s buddies from LA. Tough guys, but there is nothing tough or hard to handle about the El Manolo.
If you’re gonna eat from a Cuban truck, you gotta try the Cuban sandwich, right?? Well … it had to wait for my second visit (oh yeah, definitely worth going back again … and again …). Gabriel uses a special mojo-marinated roasted pulled pork topped with prosciutto, swiss, mustard, and pickles. The pork is so tender, so juicy, so burst-in-your-mouth with amazing flavors, it is unlike any other pulled pork sandwich or taco you’ve ever had. This may be the same meat … but it is an entirely new experience.
For those of you wanting something without bread, take a look at the Ya Tu Sabes Mas, a combination platter piled with pork and rice over grilled plantains (think banana). I’ll be the first to admit that plantains can be somewhat polarizing; either you love them or you don’t. My wife loved this dish, but she is clearly on the “love” side regarding plantains. I was less impressed (hint, I’m not as fond of grilled plantains) but it was good food. Let me pass on one word of warning: Pound for pound, this is the best bargain on the menu. I’d swear this platter weighed three pounds!
If you are still with me, and I hope you are, I saved the best for last. At least it is the best if you are a coffee lover. It doesn’t matter if you prefer your coffee black. The special roast Cuban coffee Gabriel serves is bold, rich, and smooth. The cold versions come across as sweeter (a lot sweeter by my taste buds) but the hot version doesn’t present an overpowering sweetness despite the multiple spoonfuls of sugar used to brew up this taste treat. I’d go back for the coffee alone, but soon I won’t have to since Café Con Leche will be offering their special roast by the bag soon. Hey, Gabriel, does that come with lessons so we can make it just like you do?
What? You expected me to take a photo of steaming hot coffee in a plain paper cup? It didn’t last long enough for a photo. Get your own cup!
Spend any time at all around the Café Con Leche truck and Gabriel and you are sure to hear him shout out "Fuacata!" Spanish not being even a second language for me, I found a number of translations, but my favorite is the Urban Dictionary translation of “The Spanish language brother of the American word BOOYA! Used to emphasize how right you are on anything at all.” Booya may be getting passé in English, but the Spanish language brother "fuacata" is fresh and new – just like Café Con Leche in the Dallas food truck scene. And if you have any questions about it being authentic, on my last visit, the couple in front of me were Cuban and they gave the food two thumbs up!
FUACATA! You’re gonna love Café Con Leche! Just trust me! Prices range up to $9 for the combo platter with sandwiches in the $7-$8 range.
Pegasus News Content partner - Food Truck Connection