For the past couple years, Columbian-born Luis Patino has been serving up amazing Latin-inspired food baskets from his Café Racer truck onto the streets of Minnesota while delving into the food truck culture. Working as a paralegal before deciding to make the change to a more enjoyable career in edibles, Patino has acted as one of the right hand men for the MN Food Truck Association, works in a local shop that actually builds food trucks, and is always on the hunt to think up new projects and fun opportunities for our street food scene (there’s even been talk about a potential late-night webcast at some point in the future). Now his beloved truck has made the leap from the streets to a stand-alone restaurant location in the Seward community, providing us yet another constant base to go and enjoy food from one of our favorite food truck teams.
When visiting, the first thing I noticed was the giant Orange Crush ad on the side of the building which struck me as both cliche and retro hipster-- in a good way. Once inside, I was hit with the fact of how small the cafe actually is, yet at the same time, surprisingly open.
With smooth and sleek polished wood connecting benches, booths and tables hugging the walls, a small ‘bar’ in front of the till and open-air kitchen, a few bare pictures, it’s all summed up to quite a warm, cozy communal atmosphere.
The food, as always, is delicious; I’ve paid enough visits to the truck to be able to vouch for the quality of the pulled pork, chicken, hot dog, and classic sides (one is always given a choice between crispy thin yucca/carrot frites, sweet plantains, some nice rice, the unique carrot soufflé, and many others). Besides the typical entrée, or “Arepa”, with your choice of meat and sides, the Café Racer Kitchen also doles out their own composed plates, focusing on proteins like Quarter Chicken, Chimichurri Steak (which I had at brunch, a delicious pile of moist and tender-yet-chewy garlic-herb-flavored skirt steak with an easily craveable hash), and Kielbasa, each paired with specifically chosen sides.
Further developments and playfulness in the kitchen has brought the introduction of small, almost tapas-style plates to the menu. In addition, there is the dessert expansion, which includes a Dulce de Leche Flan with papaya. Not that I complain too much about the original stand-alone-- their Tres Leches are covered in whipped cream, drizzled in chocolate sauce, and leak that heavily sweetened-condensed-milk-focused leche soaker. In a rather dense style, the mix of three dairies does its job to moisten it up, creating a dessert option perfect to enjoy with coffee.
Speaking of coffee, Café Racer Kitchen relies on a blend made specifically for them (I tried to contact recently to figure out who makes it, but no luck). The coffee is brewed as a simple black, cold press, or Café au Lait option, the latter which I definitely recommend for maximum enjoyment. The custom blend is significantly unique in its flavor, enough so that I truly wish I knew as much about coffee as I do alcohol (it’s just more fun!) to be able to fully distinguish and appreciate these flavors. That said, even I can easily tell that it tastes different than your average coffee blend.
Other drinks include the glass-bottled Mexican sodas that actually taste good (as opposed to the American version), a simple selection of canned beer from local breweries like Indeed and Bauhaus, an Argentinean Red and White wine, and some cocktail ideas.
With a succinct design and atmosphere that clearly communicates the vision of what this café was meant to be, alongside a menu that not only backs it up but continues to develop and grow as they search for their ideal height, I believe it’s safe to say that Café Racer Kitchen easily has the potential and chance to grow to a similar level of food truck turned brick-and-mortar success, just like Hola Arepa and Smack Shack, with a tighter focus on a smaller, more homey café.