Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine

marlas

A little background

Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine used to be the former Jamaica Jamaica restaurant until owners Marla and her husband Ian bought it out and renamed it Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine. After taking care of others as a nurse for 18 years, she is now working in her restaurant full time. According to her website, Marla has “reached Nirvana.” For their customers craving Creole, Indian, and Latin flavors, Nirvana can be found here. Both she and her husband have roots from Trinidad and Tobago, which means more authentic entrees for us Northerners!

It’s no surprise that Marla and Ian’s delightfully spiced entrees have gained solid recognition among the foodie culture in Minneapolis. This became especially apparent when Marla’s was featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri. Check out the video below.

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 My thoughts

Let me just take a moment to highlight their decorations. The walls of Marla’s are plastered with fun posters with a distinctly reggae flare. This makes perfect sense given that this is supposed to be a Caribbean inspired restaurant. Can you spot Guy Fieri? My fiance and I had a blast looking around at all the posters and decorations.

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Okay, to kick things off we had to get an order of fried plantains.  For those of you who haven’t had these babies before, please, order them the next chance you get!  If you’d rather stay in, these are extremely easy to make as well.  All you have to do is go to the grocery store and buy plantains. Then you need to heat oil in  a pan until it’s good and hot. Now, you can choose to slice the plantains and fry them or you can fry them whole if they are smaller. Either way, just stick them into the pan of hot oil and wait until they are brown on the outside and even have a slight crisp. You can eat them with either sea salt or a little bit of sugar and cinnamon.

Long story short, we order these every time … seriously, every time. Just get them.

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One of the best features of Marlas is that you know are getting a fresh, home cooked meal. Literally, they make everything to order and not a minute before. It’s like going home and having mom and dad cook you amazing Caribbean food! For my main meal of the night, I went with Channa and Potato Roti, which was featured on the Food Network.  What you get is a whole lot of chick peas, golf ball-sized potatoes and onions all seasoned with curry. Served is a soft, flakey and warm roti. I highly recommend this one, but be sure you read their menu for their spicy levels. Medium is very hot and Indian hot is just ridiculous for someone not used to it!

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Tony went with the Caribbean jerk. When we were here a couple months ago, a friend of our ordered this and Tony was determined to order it the next time we went. He got his wish and was definitely pleased. I can see why. The slight char on the chicken really gives it a smokey flavor that is only enhanced by the spices the meat absorbs while cooking with the peppers and onions. The jerk is served with white rice. Beware, this dish is HOT!

caribbean jerk

Thank you Food Network for finding this place. Tony and I continuously enjoy coming to Marla’s Caribbean Cafe to spice up our dinners in the week. You can always expect a great, friendly staff and food that is both filling and unique. Two things are certain, we’re positive that we are going back soon and we’ll be starting our meal with an order of plantains. We hope you enjoy Marla’s as much as we did!

For a full view of their menu, check out the link below:
online menu

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Chino Latino

A little background

If you and your crew can’t decide between south of the border fare or Asian cuisine, Chino Latino has got you covered.  Offering a wide range of options from both cuisine styles, you can mix and match your entres.  The cornerstone of what makes Chino Latino so great is their emphasis on using the freshest ingredients and combining them to create something unique.

Here’s one suggestion, ALWAYS go with a group of six or more unless you are going for their happy hour (more on that in a moment).

I advise a larger group because the restaurant serves everything family style and in large portions.  Plus, the options are a little expensive (around $12-18 for an app and 24+ for a larger plate) so the more people you bring, the more you can get and the cheaper it will be.  Knowing this was the case, I took a large group with me to celebrate my friend Sarah’s birthday.

 My thoughts

To begin, we started with appetizers.  Chino Latino serves you as the food is prepared, meaning not all of your selections will arrive at the same time.  We started with their Popocatepe.  What is this??? Well, it’s french fries, loaded with black beans, queso fresco, guacamole, sour cream, chile de arbol, and pico de gallo.  Honestly, I order this every time I go back there so I’m a little biased.

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The second appetizer that arrived was the Queso Fundido with Chorizo.  All I can say is that it is the mother of all cheesy dips.  It arrived with warm tortilla chips to boot.  This was a popular one at our table.

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Sarah and her boyfriend wanted to try something a little different and ordered the Yoshi Smokin’ Hot Rock for themselves.  This literally comes out with a hot Japanese river rock and a couple pieces of beef to cook yourself.  It was fun watching them do this because we haven’t ever seen this before.  You’ll get a piece of fat that you smear over the rock to prevent the meat from sticking.  Then cook away!  Be extra careful and use the fat generously.  The stone is very hot and your meat will stick.

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The Entres

The Chinatown Lo Mein Noodles was the first to arrive.  This is your basic lo mein wok tossed with onions, carrot, bell peppers, and straw mushrooms.  We added chicken to ours.  There was plenty to go around for our group of nine.

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Next was the Cuban Pork Crisis.  On top of the brilliant presentation of this dish, my favorite part was the four warm and gooey plantains that come with it.  Here’s what you get: citrus marinated pork slow roasted and placed on top of a bed of jasmine rice and black beans.  It’s served with cabbage slaw, queso fresco, and banana chips.

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Yes, we ordered a third entree.  It was our first time there and we absolutely had to try as much as we could!  I insisted we get the Pinoy Paella.  In all its amazing glory, I was the happiest girl on the planet.  This dish comes with jumbo shrimp, abodo chicken, mussels, chorizo sausage, calamari and saffron-annatto rice.  The flavor of the Pinoy Paella was out of this world.  Best part of all was the portions.  Not only did everyone at the table get some, but we were able to take a lot of it home as well!

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Overall, this is one of my favorite spots to take a crowd.  You’ll love what Chino Latino has to offer and won’t leave on an empty stomach.  Plus, if you are looking to wow your guests, the interior is well done and is sure to impress.

To see more of their menu, check out the following links:

Dinner Menu
Happy Hour
Drinks
Desserts
Street and Sushi

Victor’s 1959 Cafe – South Minneapolis Neighborhood

A little background

Located in the south Minneapolis neighborhood, Victor’s 1959 Cafe opened in April of 1999 bringing their neighbors a whole lot of Cuban flavor.  Back then, they started as a breakfast and lunch only kind of place.  Now, after the reconstruction of their kitchen, they are able to serve their customers a dinner menu in addition to breakfast and lunch.  Victor’s 1959 Cafe was visited by the Food Network not once, but twice and was featured on their popular show Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives.

YouTube: Click here to watch it now!

What we thought

Before my fiancé and I moved to the cities, we took a weekend trip to the Twin Cities metro area and, like all vacationers; we wanted to find unique places to grab a bite…or two.  That’s when we stumbled on Victor’s 1959 Cafe.  Seeing that both of us adore ethnic cuisine, we were sold on trying a Cuban breakfast.

Walking up to Victor’s we were a little surprised to see how compact the restaurant was.  Despite its small size, the staff can comfortably fit a sizable crowd.

Since there were only two of us, we were seated immediately.  For a larger crowd, I would suggest getting there early because Victor’s tends to get a little busy once 10 am rolls around.  The staff was great and upbeat!  Now, on to the breakfasts we had!

My fiancé had a sweet tooth that morning and decided to with the mango waffles.  Wanting to try as many things as I could, he was more than willing to let me have a bite of his waffles.  Was I ever blown away.  The waffles were cooked to perfection, not too crunchy and not soggy either.  Surprisingly, the mangoes and the waffles went together well and topped with whipped cream made them delightful!  Both of us would highly recommend this to anyone dining for breakfast.

Now when I go for breakfast, nothing can satisfy my appetite better than a plate of something with eggs.  I decided to have the Cuban Sampler, which included eggs with creole sauce, black beans and sweet plantains.  All I can say is that this was exactly what I was looking for in a breakfast.  Plenty of food with a whole lotta flavor!  The dish was served with two corn tortillas, which came in handy for making my own mini breakfast burritos.  My meal was filling, but I managed to save room for the plantains.  They were a sweet ending to a wonderful morning starter.

I encourage anyone looking for a unique experience to check out Victor’s 1959 Cafe.  Its friendly atmosphere, great staff and incredible dishes makes this a must stop in Minneapolis.

P.S. Bring along some sharpies.  The owners actually encourage customers to draw on the walls and leave their mark!

For a full view of their menu, check out the links below:
Breakfast and Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu
Desserts