Off to the races

Cafe Racer Kitchen serves up interpretations of Colombian favorites in Seward

Pulled pork, sazón rice and roasted vegetables are just a few of the Columbian-influenced menu options at Café Racer Kitchen in Minneapolis on Sunday.

Juliet Farmer

Pulled pork, sazón rice and roasted vegetables are just a few of the Columbian-influenced menu options at Café Racer Kitchen in Minneapolis on Sunday.

Grant Tillery

Eclecticism defines the Seward neighborhood’s dining presence in the Twin Cities. There’s no rhyme or reason to the restaurants that dot the corners on Franklin Avenue, 25th Street and other thoroughfares aside from their personalized funkiness.

Based on this criterion, it makes perfect sense that Cafe Racer Kitchen put down its brick-and-mortar in the area. Owner Luis Patino and crew first made their culinary waves on the local food truck scene with their Latin American street food several years ago.

While Cafe Racer Kitchen’s food truck still runs in full force, the charming, tiny restaurant feels like an informal neighborhood gathering space a mere two weeks after opening.

Cafe Racer Kitchen’s forte is humility. The attractive yet unpretentious blond dining room is on point trend-wise but isn’t obnoxious about its aesthetic. Welcoming, attentive service drives this point home without erring on the side of being overbearing.

The food embodies humility as well. The flavors are earthy and homey without being heavy, despite being meat-centric. Instead of serving a long menu of authentic favorites, Cafe Racer Kitchen offers five to 10 staples with a nouveau twist.

While the novelty and the $5 price tag of the Colombian Street Dog entice, order the pulled pork on arepa ($9) for an entree.

With a less deft hand, the firm pork could veer into overcooked territory, but Patino’s take on the Colombian comfort food swims under a bed of veggies and spicy mayo. The pork wore its achiote dry rub well, and it functioned much like the details on a fine outfit would: underappreciated yet welcome, tying everything together.

I ordered the carrot souffle as the side to the entree, despite apprehension that the healthy dose of beta-carotene would turn me orange like my aunt, who drank too much carrot juice one misbegotten summer. If my hue changed after eating at Cafe Racer Kitchen, it’s from the glow of satisfaction caused by the souffle.

Shredded, cooked carrots and cheese are an unlikely pairing that embodies the art of simplicity in this dish. The carrots’ tender sweetness mutes the salty zing of the cheese that holds it together. The consummation of this odd couple’s holy union is a thing of beauty, till death do them part.

The sweet plantains ($5) are a formidable side dish yet lack the oomph and cachet of the carrot souffle. Nevertheless, their slight sugariness and melt-in-your-mouth texture made me devour them (and ward off hungry friends from them) in no time flat. A small sprinkling of powdered cheese garnished the plantains, and neither enhanced nor detracted from their potassium-filled goodness.

Yucca fries are a contentious point around town, and most bestow Brasa’s as the top dog. Cafe Racer Kitchen’s thin tubers resemble McDonald’s French fries in appearance and texture. Before you chase me out of town with pitchforks, believe me when I say that I hate McDonald’s as much as the next person does. I have a soft spot for their fries, which are the closest thing to a time machine when childhood nostalgia kicks in. Cafe Racer Kitchen’s fries have the same effect; they’re the anti-Brasa yucca fries because their pared-down minimalism makes the diner nostalgic for a simpler time.

Though Brasa has the better overall fry, Cafe Racer Kitchen’s come in a close second, partly thanks to the unusual accoutrement of tartar sauce. At first, its addition (in place of ketchup or aioli) seemed startling, and on first bite it didn’t agree with my palate. The lingering, vinegary aftertaste suggested otherwise, proving the perfect foil for the simple yet tasty fry. This dynamism is proof that sometimes, less is more, which embodies Cafe Racer Kitchen’s ethos.

 

Cafe Racer Kitchen

 

Where: 2929 E. 25th St., Minneapolis

Hours: 5–10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5–11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.–11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Entrees, $5-$13; sides, $5.