Luis Patino has a motorcycle affixed to his Cafe Racer food truck, and it isn't just for show, even though the idea alone is pretty stylish. "In case I forget something I can just jump on the bike and run and get it!" If you know anything about food trucks, you know it's no easy feat remembering everything you need, every day, to run a restaurant on wheels: the pepper, the cutlery, the spare propane, the pepper, the beef, the napkins, the pennies. It seems like a motorcycle should be standard equipment on a food truck considering the number of swift dispatches one has to make. He estimates he's used it at least 20 times.
While Cafe Racer will still be running the food truck this season, at least they'll have a permanent home for all the stuff named above, plus lots more, at their newly remodeled restaurant by the same name in the old Clicquot Club (now Orange Crush) building in the Seward neighborhood.
Patino is becoming known for his Colombian comfort food -- pulled meats, arepas, Sazon rice, sweet plantains, Colombian street dogs. He says the reception has been impressive, and surprising even to him: "I'd say more than 90 percent of the plates come back literally looking like they've been licked. Imagine the effort it takes to eat every last grain of rice with a fork!" He says one plate came back into the kitchen with about an eighth of a hot dog still on it and the entire kitchen came to a halt.
Patino and his crew did the build-out themselves, with simple blond wood banquettes, a little bar, and hardwood tables and floor. "It's a simple space, but we wanted to do it right, and it's a labor of love." He painted the three walls of the restroom with the three cities he loves: Minneapolis, St. Paul, and his hometown in Colombia, Santa Marta.
There's a certain singular energy to a newly opened little restaurant that could. It's like an electric crackle you can feel: Once the ink is dry on all the licenses and you've passed all the inspections and the paint is dry and the creamer is inside of the coolers and the floors have been swept and the grill is actually working and you've turned the signage to the "open" side, it's like you feel you can do anything! Because you can! You can see it on the faces of the crew here. They're smug in the realization that they can do anything, and they're having fun with that knowledge.
"A Cafe Racer was a guy who takes all the nonessential parts off of his motorcycle so that he can go as fast as possible," Patino tells me. And where were they racing off to? The cafe, of course. It's a fitting title for his little business: It's stripped down and simple (just 34 seats inside but the sidewalk and patio they're building should double that) and there's not much to see, but they're going very fast, and we're betting they're going to go far.
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