Cuban Newbies Try Yummy Yucca

Posted: September 2, 2011 in Food
Tags: ,

I’ve not often had occasion to enjoy Cuban cuisine. Years ago it did not impress me as a style that tempted further exploration. My first taste was in a Virginia Highland restaurant where I tried my first Cuban sandwich. The downsides for me were a) the dill pickle permeated the sandwich to the point it had no other discernible flavor and b) every single item on the menu included black beans and rice. (I’ve since overcome my aversion to black beans and rice.) The upside was that one of the people I dined with ordered the fish. That’s an upside? Absolutely! It was served with head and tail intact and propped up vertically on the plate, hot out of the oven. Surrounded by black beans and rice. It was certainly memorable, that fish staring at me while I picked and nibbled at my pickle sandwich.

But now my tastes have evolved a bit, and I no longer shy away from black beans (in fact, I have several favorite recipes in which they are an ingredient), and I’ve had Rey’s Cuban Café on my “reydar” for awhile. The wife and I chose to lunch there as a way of adding adventure to our day off together last week during my furlough.

Rey’s is a tiny drive-thru behind the BP station at Hwy 78 and Rosebud Road. You can eat in (there are three or four tables available, and plans for picnic tables out front) but it’s set up primarily for takeout – right down to the plastic picnicware. Reynaldo was excited to learn that it was our first visit and quickly recommended and explained the items on the menu. His enthusiasm was contagious, and probably influenced our delight in the food.

We ordered the Empanadas de Carne appetizers, which I very much enjoyed. Carol picked at some of the pastry, but avoided the filling as she doesn’t eat red meat. They were very tasty, and I’ll likely stop by in the future just for an empanadas snack.

Carol ordered – with trepidation – the Elena Ruz sandwich (turkey, cream cheese and strawberry jam? really?) and Yucca Fritas while I opted for the Picadillo sandwich with black beans and rice. We sampled each other’s plates to get a good overall idea of what we had and what we liked. Everything was as advertised – delicious and unusual. Even the fried yucca was good; we were warned that it was an unexciting side veggie similar to steak fries, and that was true but it was still tasty. At least it wasn’t yucky yucca. (It had to be said. Sorry.)

Rey explained that yucca (YOO-kuh) is a root, traditionally boiled, served with garlic and olive oil. He offered to cook some up anytime we like if we call at least 45 minutes ahead. Carol took him up on his offer the following day, and found it delicious prepared that way as well.

The Picadillo sandwich, for all of its wonderful flavor, was, toward the end, saltier than I like. I can’t decide if the olives had anything to do with that; probably so. I washed it down with half of Carol’s Materva Yerba Mate tea/soda and the Jarrito Mango soda I chose. I enjoy trying imported beverages – even those that don’t require fermentation.

Next visit, excepting a trip for an empanada snack, maybe I’ll try a classic Cuban sandwich. Rey claims it’s the most authentic in the Atlanta area. Or maybe I’ll opt for the Lechon Asado, if I’m flush with cash and it’s available that day – marinated Cuban style pork leg is a mouth-watering temptation.

There are two menus that can be found online, but the meals actually available at the restaurant seem to be a mix of the two. The newer website for Rey’s Cuban Café is still under construction, but the menu from the defunct Rey’s Cuban Grill (which was at a different Loganville location) is still available. They’re both on Facebook, too, as is Rey himself. He’ll likely be thrilled to chat with you whether you’re a Cuban-food newbie or a long-time aficionado.

Do you know of a Gwinnett County restaurant that has become a favorite of yours? One that’s funky, colorful, privately owned? Share it in the comments section, below!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s