Maria's vs. Victor's: Clash of the corn cakes
How do you refuel when you roll out of bed on a crisp weekend morning a bit worse for wear after closing down the Red Dragon the night before? If you instinctively grope for gooey chocolate croissants or glazed donuts and iced coffee, your morning will perk up quickly -- before ending suddenly in a drooling, sugary coma on the couch or the bed or the chair or the bus stop. This is no way to live. Yet, a high protein breakfast of granola and Greek yogurt sweetened with agave nectar is too healthy, adult, and boring at any age. Corn pancakes for breakfast might be the ideal compromise you didn't know you were looking for.
The Venue: This week pits the Cuban corn cakes from Victor's 1959 Cafe against the Colombian ones from Maria's Cafe. Which corn cake offers the best combination of sweet and savory for those of us who dream of a Princely snack as Saturday night drifts into Sunday morning?
Amy Dahlin The writing's on the wall for Victor's fans.
The Weigh-in: Victor's is a charming little south Minneapolis shack whose graffiti-covered walls are heavy on testimonials from its loyal clientele. The menu at Victor's offers a wide variety of Cuban dishes; the vintage-vinyl-colored black beans and crispy tostones definitely caught our eyes when they were delivered to a nearby table. Maria's is both more spacious and more conventional. Its three different rooms provide lots of available seating but very little ambiance. (N.B.: Legit breakfast places apparently come in only two sizes -- "Slovakian root cellar" or "Bavarian beer hall.") However, Maria's had interesting yet unobtrusive live music that let us hold a conversation with each other without raising our voices, even though we were seated only a few feet away from the guitarist.
Round 1: The corn
Both cakes have whole kernels of corn, but they differ in amount and consistency. The Victor's version contains enough corn to give the cake an almost meaty heft. Unfortunately, these kernels are also a bit chewy, as if they were taken from cobs left a bit too long before shucking. The Maria's cake has fewer of these tidbits, but they are more delicate and toothsome.