Catalina's Restaurant in St. Anthony: a first look
Mo Perry Catalina's Restaruant is now open in St. Anthony
In mid-July, the run down pizza joint in the inauspicious strip mall across from IHOP on 37th and Stinson, where St. Anthony, Columbia Heights, and Northeast Minneapolis converge, gave way to a shiny new storefront.
Sensing opportunity among hard times, Catalina Duran and Lucia Vogel (who formerly worked in the kitchen at El Meson) bought the space and turned it in to Catalina's Restaurant, which focuses on Honduran cuisine along with your standard Mexican fare. The Hot Dish stopped in to try it out, and we couldn't have been more impressed. Read on for a first look at this promising new restaurant.
Duran and Vogel have done their best to overcome the humble strip mall digs, painting the walls a bright and welcoming yellow and adorning the walls with festive, colorful art.
Guests are greeted at the entrance by a gleaming stainless steel counter for take-out orders, behind which the spotless kitchen is open to the public eye. Large bowls of fresh fruit and vegetables are perched on the island, where the cooks can pluck them up and incorporate them into dishes as they go.
We knew there were good things in store after one sip of the South American menu staple made famous by Vampire Weekend, horchata--a simple beverage made with rice, water, and ice. Catalina's adds jicama and tamarind for a light, flavorful drink redolent of iced chai.
The menu starts out with typical Mexican restaurant fare such as tostadas, enchiladas,and flautas, before segueing into less-familiar Honduran and Latin American dishes. Most dinner entrees hover around $8 or $9, with a few specialty dishes, including the seafood options, venturing up to $12 or $13. The paella, which feeds four people and features a fresh mix of seafood, goes for $49.95.
We tried the Casmiento, a delicious mixture of rice, beans, cilantro, and chicken, served ringed with orange slices with a side of fresh, hot tortillas ($7.95) and the Mixiotes--chicken with steamed veggies sauteed in a red gaujillo sauce with a side of rice and beans ($8.95).
The chicken in the Mixiotes was some of the most tender meat we've ever had, literally falling off the drumstick bone. The guajillo sauce, made with guajillo chiles, was spicy and substantial without being heavy, and the carrots and potatoes were fork-tender.
Our vegetarian companion, recently back from Chile and quite the South American food connoisseur, gave two thumbs up to her cheese enchiladas before licking the plate clean.
Though we didn't receive chips and salsa before our meal, we were sent home with samples of three of their homemade salsas, which are already inspiring customers to order them by the jar for home consumption. Fair warning: the picante salsa puts the "haaaaa" in "hot," so only true heat lovers need apply for that one.
Our verdict: Catalina's offers some of the most authentic, flavorful, fresh, and delicious Latin American food in the city at bargain basement prices. We predict a long and happy life for them, and won't mind saying "I told you so," as word starts to spread about this new gem.
2301 37th Ave NE
Columbia Heights, 55421