Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rice and Beans Cafe

Chimpotle and I met up for a little KCK adventure to the Rice and Beans Cafe (719 Central). I had heard that the Rice and Beans Cafe made the best Cuban sandwich in town. A good Cuban sandwich has been my white whale. I'm a lover of pork products so a sandwich that combines 2 great preparations of pig, ham and roast pork. There's all kinds of preparations but all Cuban sandwiches contain mustard and pickles. I've never had a good one though. Maybe that means I don't like them or maybe it means I just haven't had the right one yet.

I was up for putting the Rice and Beans Cafe up to the test. As I was looking at the Rice and Beans menu, I noticed a sandwich I'd never heard of before, a tripleta which is a Puerto Rican sandwich. Everyone's heard of a Cuban, I was going to make like Columbus and "discover" a sandwich a native people already loved. Chimpo and I decided to share our sandwiches (they're cut in half) so we could have one of each.

I made my way over to 7th and Central (a full 8 minutes from downtown) in KCK and drove around the area a couple of times to find a place to park. I was able to find a spot on the street next to some sort of pregnancy clinic. I walked up to the Cafe and had to work some mojo to get in the door without having the window air conditioner (placed right above the door) drip water on me*. I've found this is a KCK staple, El Pollo Rey also has a leaky area that you have to watch when walking up.

*You can see a picture of what I'm talking about here as well as some great pictures of the food and menu. I tried to take a picture of the air conditioner, but there was literally a homeless looking guy standing just within the shot drinking a paper sack covered can of beer. I took a picture but tried to make it obvious that I wasn't taking a picture of him and missed the shot I was going for.

I sat down at the long counter that spanned the length of the restaurant, maybe about 12 barstools long. They also had 3 or 4 tables for 2 spanning the far wall. It was the perfect size for a good lunch spot which is what they are since they close at 4 on most days. The waitress helped me almost immediately and got me my water and a menu. Chimpo walked in and he was helped immediately as well. As we sat there enjoying some Latin music we placed our orders, the tripleta for me and the Cuban for Chimpo. The cook in the back told the waitress that he didn't have the fixins for the tripleta, so I ordered the Cuban instead. I was then told that they could make the tripleta after all if I still wanted it. Confused as to what to do, I said I would take the tripleta.

Having never had a tripleta before, I don't know if what I got was actually a tripleta or a tripleta type sandwich made with the makings they had. A tripleta is basically a Cuban sandwich with steak and caramelized onions in addition to the ham and roast pork. I think the steak I was served had been placed in an oven and forgotten about for a couple of days. It was awful and very well done, I'm surprised it wasn't just ash. I took the steak out of the sandwich and was left with my very own Cuban.

My Cuban sandwich was really pretty good, but if this was the best Cuban sandwich in KC, I'm going to quit ordering Cuban sandwiches. I enjoyed it, but I enjoy a lot of food that is much more consistently good.

The best part of eating at Rice and Beans Cafe, though, is the sandwiches are served with fried plantains which are much more tasty than french fries. I wished that I would have been given more than 2 of the crab cake sized plantains because I really enjoyed them. Our service was great and the waitress seemed like she genuinely cared whether we enjoyed our meal. I didn't have the heart to tell her the steak was awful. I think she knew because I think I she charged me a little less than the menu price. I got out of there for a little over $10 and they do take plastic which is a relief.
I think Rice and Beans Cafe is definitely a place you should try, but I think they can do some things a little better. A look at their menu gives you the impression they don't know what they want to do, it's all over the place. It has Venezuelan (I think the owners are Venezuelan as it used to be called the Venezuela cafe and they had a fun picture of a naked Hugo Chavez reaching out to Karl Marx hanging on the wall, I don't know if they were being ironic or what, I found the whole thing amusing), Cuban, Puerto Rican and other latin american specialties along with items like roast chicken and fried chicken. I didn't know if the fried chicken was like Popeye's or if it was some latin american spice fried chicken. Since most places in that area are Mexican or some other country specific, the Rice and Bean Cafe might be able to fill a little niche.

Noodles & Company kind of does what I think the Rice and Beans Cafe should do. They categorize their menu into countries or regions so you know what kind of food you are going to order. I think Rice and Beans should do the same thing, categorize their food into Cuban, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican etc. sections. That way they can have about the same menu and make it a little easier to comprehend. The menu is really full and has something for everyone including an Indian canoe which sounds like some horrid sex act involving curry. You can find the menu and daily specials here.


m.v. said...

sounds good,I did see secret arrangements in the making,but I was to busy to crash your date

jill said...

for a good cuban, check out swagger.

JH said...

Best Cuban sandwich in KC? Hell, I can hardly find a place that serves them!

Anyway, I just got back from Puerto Rico and had the very best Cuban sandwich there.

As far as the tripleta goes, I didn't have one (kept trying for an awesome Cuban like the first). From what I know, the tripleta is supposed to be pork, chicken, and beef. Out there it seemed like every place used pastrami instead of steak though. Damn, I should have tried one!

Aaron Deacon said...

Glad you posted this, I had a hankering for a Cuban yesterday, and I really enjoyed the Rice and Beans version. Ownership change partly explains menu weirdness. I didn't get any fried plantains with the sandwich and was served on a plate rather than a basket. Not sure if that's a change, or it's just always different. More on LTHForumKC:

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