Revolutionary pancakes

KINGFIELD – A balmy summer morning on the colorful patio at Victor’s 1959 Café is a fitting way to enjoy an authentic Cuban meal – or at least a huge pancake smothered in one of the country’s prominent fruits.

Mango pancakes are a customer favorite at the quaint Cuban restaurant at 3756 Grand Ave. S. and one bite of a thick buttermilk cake infused with fresh mangos and doused with pure mango puree is all it takes to find out why.

Syrup? No thank you. Butter? A ball of it is served in the center of the one-cake breakfast, but it’s not necessary. Spreading it through the thick puree would probably be a challenge, anyway. All you need is a fork and an appetite to enjoy this meal, and maybe a coordinating glass of mango juice.

Tiny fruit fibers in the pancake are the first clue that mangos are used in the batter. Mangos are a fibrous fruit and are also one of the most exotic in Cuba, said Victor’s owner Niki Stavrou, who devised the mango pancake with restaurant co-founder and Cuba native Victor Valens when the café opened eight years ago.

Mango is added to the batter when it’s still on the grill, Stavrou said. Then the sweet puree is poured over the finished cake, which is deceptively light with a slight outer crispness. The one cake is enough to satisfy the most rumbling of tummies.

That’s why customers often share a mango pancake with a meal, Stavrou said.

Other pancake meals, such as the banana pancake, are also offered at Victor’s. The pancakes are oddballs on a breakfast menu specializing in more authentic Cuban cuisine such as eggs served with fried yucca, plantains or black beans, and toast with guava jam. Stavrou said the American-style diner Victor’s replaced served pancakes and she wanted to keep them on the menu, so they got a Cuban twist.

The little restaurant’s colorful ambience is just as appealing as it’s food. Miniature flags – most of them Cuban – hang inside and out; tablecloths are tropical and bright; and photos of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, revolutionary Che Guevara and various Cuban scenes hang haphazardly on the walls. Trinkets, many from Cuba and most brought in by customers, are everywhere you look.

Stavrou also hands out Sharpies to customers who’d like to leave their mark at the restaurant, an idea she and Valens got from a bar in Havana.

Victor’s is absolutely covered in messages in English and Spanish.

The place celebrates the spirit of the 1959 Cuban revolution, Stavrou said. It’s more about the "feeling" than the politics, she said, and to show her restaurant isn’t just for those on the Left, she created Left- and Right-wing seating sections, which she said has made some customers more comfortable.

It’s all for fun, anyway.

"Politics are so serious, especially between us and Cuba, that you have to have a sense of humor about it," Stavrou said.

If the restaurant’s décor doesn’t put a smile on your face, a big mango pancake will. And at $2.95 after tax, it’s enough to make you say "viva la pancake revolución!"

Victor’s is open for breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Dinner is served from 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information, call 827-8948 or check out www.victors1959cafe.com.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or jweyer@mnpubs.com.