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Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013

Café el Sol: Where Mexico Meets Puerto Rico

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Start the day with a warm cup of coffee at Café el Sol—and end the evening with a margarita. Housed on the lower level of that Walker’s Point success story, the sprawling United Community Center, Café el Sol has evolved over the years into an attractive, even cozy restaurant—at least before the sliding wall is pulled back to reveal a larger, identically decorated backroom. The plastered walls are painted in warm hues, the tables are covered in green and gold linen and are ringed with high-backed Spanish-style chairs. The ambiance is a Hollywood dream of the perfect cantina, complete with shuttered windows (opening onto nothing) and an arched doorway into the kitchen.

Needless to add, Spanish is spoken here, but the friendly staff is bilingual. Desayunos (breakfast), served 7:30-11 a.m. (Monday through Friday), features Mexican favorites such as chilaquiles ($6.25), corn chips and scrambled eggs in ranchero sauce, and spicy huevos rancheros ($5.95), with choice of toast or tacos (corn or flour). Vegetarians will be happy with a side of refried beans, while carnivores may opt instead for those staples of American breakfast—sausage, bacon or ham. Portions are not as brimming as at some local Mexican restaurants, but the quality is good and the servings are attractive.

By lunchtime, a basket of crispy chips and a bowl of salsa arrive on each table. The all-you-can-eat taco and salad bar ($6.95) is a fast, filling choice. The steam trays are filled with tacos and tostadas, beef and pulled chicken, refried beans and Mexican rice. There are cheeses, tomatoes and sour cream, along with the usual fixings for a salad. If you’d rather order off the menu, all the usual Mexican favorites from flautas and fajitas to enchiladas and burritos are available ($6.95-$9.95). One of the Café’s distinctions, however, are the Puerto Rican botanas (appetizers), including four kinds of plantains ($2.75-$4.95) and a daily Puerto Rican entrée special of beef, pork or chicken dishes ($7.75).

The Friday evening special is billed as a fish fry buffet ($11.95), but a recent visit found fried fish, baked fish, beef stew and pork stew as well as tasty Mexican rice and refried beans. Live music begins at 6:30 p.m.

A small bar faces Café el Sol from across the foyer, serving margaritas ($6) and a short list of wine and domestic and imported beers. The Café lacks its own street entrance, but is just a short elevator ride down from the UCC’s lobby.

 

Café el Sol

1028 S. Ninth St.

414-384-3100

$$

unitedcc.org/CafeElSol.htm

Handicap accessible: yes