Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Restaurant Review - Black Bean Deli (a Cuban cafe), 325 S. Orlando Ave, Winter Park, FL

Black Bean DeliIn search of a good Cuban sandwich in Orlando, I heard about the Black Bean Deli in Winter Park. I wanted to try their food but there was a problem. I don't live nor work near Winter Park. Ordinarily, this would not be a problem, however Black Bean Deli has unusual hours for a restaurant - they are only open Monday through Friday from 11 am - 8 pm. No weekends. So, when I took vacation days during the week of July 4th, I paid Black Bean Deli a visit. Uh oh. Turns out the Black Bean Deli folks decided to take off as well - they were closed for the week. As I waited in the parking lot with my two boys trying to decide where to go instead, a virtual stream of hungry patrons attempted to enter the Black Bean Deli only to find a locked door and a "we are on vacation" sign. Wow, I thought, if this many people are coming by, this place must have good food. I peeked in the window to see that, really, Black Bean Deli is more like a tiny, but nice, takeout place rather than a restaurant, with only seating for about five people on stools around the counter. I decided that we would return again, next time I was on vacation.

This month, I was finally able to return to Black Bean Deli and try their food. The boys and I arrived on a Monday, around 11:30 am and there were already a few people in the small place waiting for their orders. Seeing that the small inside space was about to get crowded, I made a decision to get our food to go. The menu is pretty simple at Black Bean Deli - sandwiches are about $5; platters that come with rice, beans, plantains and salad run from $5.50 - $7.50; and then there are sides, desserts and drinks. Drinks all come in cans or bottles and are mostly domestic sodas as well as imported sodas such as Ironbeer, Materva, Jupina, Malta, and tropical juices. I considered the platters that included offerings such as picadillo, papas reBB checking out the counter at Black Bean Delillenas, and baked chicken, but ultimately chose the lunch special for all three of us. The lunch special (served daily until 3 pm) consists of a 4-inch Cuban sandwich with a cup of black beans and rice for$5. That was exactly what I wanted and I thought it would be a good size for the boys. After I ordered, I backed away from the counter to wait while the boys played on the stools. The folks running the counter are very efficient and quick - they must be used to lots of orders at one time. In about five minutes our order was ready so we hopped back in the car to take it home.

As soon as I unwrapped the meals on our kitchen table at home, I knew I should have just let the boys share one lunch special. The sandwich was a lot bigger than I expected and so was the black beans and rice. The sandwiches were done to a nice buttery crispness with a few burn marks here and there. The black beans and rice... well... looked a little too watery to me. That's when I checked the takeout menu I had grabbeCuban sandwich with black beans & riced and re-read the lunch special - 4" Cuban sandwich w/cup of black beans & rice. Hmmm. Oh, there you go - under "Soups" it says black bean & rice or soup of the day available in cup, pint, or quart. So, maybe, it is a cup of black beans and rice soup that comes with the sandwich? Either way, I strained off some of the liquid from all of our containers. The sandwich itself was still warm and the bread had a nice crunchiness to it. The first taste was of sweetness from the ham then the roast pork and swiss cheese flavors kick in. Overall, it was a pretty good sandwich, although just a little dry. Definitely tasted like the ones in Miami, though. The black beans and rice were a bit salty but once I started digging in, it didn't bother me anymore. They were very flavorful but I did wish there was a little more rice - I like a nice balance between the two. BB ate about half of his sandwich and just pecked at his beans and rice since he was full. LB didn't touch the sandwich at all and ate almost all of his beans and rice. Again a reminder that next time I need to order one special for the both of them.

I'd really like to go back and try Black Bean Deli's platters - the picadillo is one of my favorite dishes. If anyone lives in the Winter Park area, can you just pick one up and deliver to us? Thanks in advance.


Mercy (A Cuban in Miami) said...

Juat to let everyone know that Ironbeer, Materva, Jupina, and Malta are not "imported". Look at the can to read where it is manufactured. For example, I know for a fact that Ironbeer is made in Miami, FL. It originated in Cuba but they are not coming from Cuba even if Cuba still makes it. The Ironbeer we drink here is made here.

Restaurant Mom said...

Mercy, you are absolutely right - I just looked it up! All of those sodas are being made in Miami now although most of them were originally made in Cuba.

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