I met up with one of my dealers for breakfast during a late summer trip to the Twin Cities. He does a really good job of picking restaurant to meet at and he suggested a place that I've had my eye on for quite sometime. When he suggested we meet up at Victor's 1959 Cafe in Minneapolis, I was happy to agree to meet him there.
The building that houses Victor's was originally built as a Shell gas station in the 1920's. In the 60's, it turned into a Dairy Queen and was a neighborhood gathering spot for many years. In 1981, the building became Rick's Ol' Time Cafe. It was a popular place for breakfast before the business was sold to Niki Stavrou and Victor Valens in 1999.
Victor Valens was a Cuban refugee when he moved to New York in 1961 at the age of 11. He eventually made it to the Twin Cities where he found a noticeable lack of Cuban food even though there was a small Cuban community in the area. With Niki Stavrou, he opened Victor's 1959 Cafe - the "1959" comes from the year of the Cuban revolution.
During the first few years of its existence, Victor's 1959 Cafe became well known for their breakfasts and authentic Cuban foods. They began to sell wine and beer in 2004, and Niki ended up taking over the kitchen soon after that. In 2007, she bought out Valens and kept the Cuban theme to the restaurant. She remodeled the inside of the small building and added a patio for seasonal seating. Niki Stavrou hired a chef in 2008 and got out of the kitchen to concentrate on being the sole owner of Victor's 1959 Cafe. She continues to run the restaurant today.
Victor's 1959 Cafe is located on the northwest corner of S. Grand and W. 38th in Minneapolis. (see map) I found parking on W. 38th just down the street from the restaurant. I was supposed to meet my dealer around 9 a.m. and as I walked up to the restaurant I found that the outdoor patio dining area was full. I went inside to see if my dealer was in there and he wasn't. I told the hostess that I was waiting for someone and that I'd wait inside for him.
The interior of Victor's 1959 Cafe is, well, sort of funky. It featured a low slung ceiling, a number of high-backed wooden booths covered in graffiti, and red, green and yellow pepper lights hung haphazardly around the place. I waited patiently for my dealer to show up and I finally texted him around 9:10 a.m. He texted back and said that he was outside on the patio. I walked outside and there he was at a table in the corner. I asked, "How long have you been here?" He said that he'd been there about five minutes. I told him the patio was full when I got there. He said, "I walked up and about three tables opened up just as I was coming in."
Our server came over to drop off a couple breakfast menus and asked if we wanted any coffee. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but I did see that they had Cuban coffee. I've had the sweet coffee with the consistency of motor oil in Miami a number of years ago and I sort of liked it. I ordered a Cafe Cubano - basically a sugar pressed espresso - a double. It was good, but it was so packed with sugar and caffeine that I thought I was going to crawl out of my skin an hour later.
The breakfast menu was a cross between American and Cuban foods. They had scrambler platters with black beans or chorizo, mango pancakes or waffles, a sweet plantain omelet, and something called "Huevos de la Isla" - thinly sliced smoked salmon on top of two English muffins, topped with two poached eggs and finished off with an orange-avocado sauce. The Cuban Hash - ground beef simmered in a creole sauce with potatoes, green olives, raisins and capers - also caught my eye.
I ended up getting the Basque Scrambler that consisted of three scrambled eggs topped with a creole stew of Spanish chorizo sausage, ham, onions, garlic, with green and red peppers. It was an interesting taste. The creole stew was thick and had a bit of a spicy taste to it. I like to put Cholula on top of scrambled eggs or an omelet, but the creole sauce was more than a great taste sensation on the eggs.
My dealer told our waitress, "You know, everything looks good and interesting. Why don't you just bring me out your most popular breakfast?" She brought him a variation of the Cuban Hash with two poached eggs. I liked my Basque Scrambler, but I was certainly intrigued with the look of the Cuban Hash and wished I would have gotten that. Of course, he said the Cuban Hash was very good. But he also said that all the food at Victor's is very good. "I don't think I've ever had a bad meal here," he told me.
I've been on the hunt for a good Cuban sandwich - not the pressed panini sandwiches most restaurants try to pass off as a Cuban sandwich - but one with the sweet Cuban bread and pork that is marinated in citrus juice. It sounds like they have one at Victor's 1959 and I'll have to go back to try it.
I liked everything about Victor's 1959 Cafe - the quaint funkiness of the place, the food was very good and very interesting, and the service was top notch. It's one of the more popular and unique places to eat in the Twin Cities. I don't know all that much about Cuban food, but it appeared that most of the foods they have on the menu are authentic. Victor's 1959 Cafe is a nice change of pace in terms of culinary selections in the Twin Cities.