Mexican, Mexican, Mexican. That’s all we get around here in Northern California. I’m not complaining about Mexican food here. I love Chile Verde, Carnitas, Huevos Rancheros, et al. Our family eats so much Mexican food that we’re at least 15% Mexican by now. At least. But this week I went Puerto Rican on your ass!
My friend and fellow Foodie, Dave, suggested that I try the new Puerto Rican restaurant in Santa Rosa, El Coqui. He had heard good things. So my husband “Captain America” met me for lunch courtesy of Uptake.com. We encountered a busy little restaurant buzzing with action and packed with customers in the middle of the day. We were greeted by the owner’s son and seated by the counter. I want to tell you about the weird poker machine at the end of the bar and the patron that sat there playing virtual cards and chowing down on PR food. It was surreal.
El Coqui doesn’t have regular ice tea with which to make my Arnold Palmer, just some raspberry crap so I ordered a Diet Pepsi and so did Captain America. I was being bitchy and decided that the young man had brought a regular Pepsi and if I was a diabetic I might have died or something. After asking for a replacement … three times as evidenced in the picture … I admitted that I was wrong and in fact, am a bitch. Sorry waiter. He was so sweet about it though. Saying “It’s okay, there are free refills anyway.” Nice touch, kid.
I asked him to bring me the best thing on the menu. I had the Palomilla Encebollado for $9.95 (lunch). If you have never eaten Puerto Rican food, let me first tell you that it is not the same as Mexican. There are no tortillas, cilantro, cheese. So get that out of your silly little head.
The rice was vaguely smokey with a deceptively mild flavor. The red beans had a little more zing and were much better than Louisiana Red Beans. There was a small side salad of avocado and tomato. Most importantly, I had fried plantains. You may crinkle your nose and say “Eww, fried bananas with a steak?” They are really not bananas. The warm crunchy outside and the slightly sweet inside will appeal to absolutely anyone with taste.
The waiter suggested using the homemade sauce that sits on the table. Its a blend of vinegar, olive oil, spices, peppers, and pineapple. With his encouragement, we shook it all over our food. Together each flavor blended together to make a perfectly symphonic masterpiece. Sweet, spicy, salty. The steak was not fantastic, it was tough, thin, and fatty around the edges. But perhaps this is the perfect Puerto Rican steak? But for me, not so much.
I’ve saved the best for last. I asked the son/waiter “Are any of your desserts homemade?” and he sweetly said “My mom’s flan.” SOLD!! I’m a custard freak anyway. Hands down the best f***ing flan in the world. I was stuffed and couldn’t eat for the rest of the day. Captain America loved it all too. We cherish family atmosphere and good food, and the El Coqui pulled it all together for a reasonable price.El Coqui 400 Mendocino Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95401