By Syvester Grahame
The restaurant scene in Cuenca seems as changeable as the weather. What was once the “new hot new spot” is already a fleeting memory. The lights are off and the stove is cold.
The Pepper Mill, although it received good reviews, is already gone. And, I can’t even begin to understand what the once and future Casa Azul is up to — the wildly unpredictable hours and name changes are a puzzle of befuddlement.
So, I was quite surprised when I discovered Sucré Salé Café. Discovery is a relative term here; Sucré Salé has been serving up delicious home-style cooking and great music for eight years.
Snuggled into a cozy nook next to the Old Cathedral and across from Parque Calderon, this well-maintained and efficient eatery is perfect for a Yankee style breakfast ($5), tasty sandwiches ($5 – $8), and an assortment of South American favorites.
My lunch companion and I went all international — she had quiche champignon ($4) while I tucked into an Empanada ($3.50) stuffed with either cuy or shredded beef. I can’t say. Both lunches were delicious.
Cristina Mora, who has owned the place since she was 22, moves through the kitchen, her efficient hands in constant motion. She has a deft touch, creating signature dishes while adhering to traditional techniques. She never strays too far afield of predictable fare, and is determined that no corners are cut. Everything from condiments, dressings, sandwich bread, and just-off-my-diet for-one-day desserts are made in-house. It shows and is appreciated.
The evenly split clientele of expats and locals feel equally at home and know they are in good hands and among friends. People come here for many reasons, and those reasons keeps them coming back.
There is more than hot food cooking in Sucré Salé. On Tuesday nights they serve straight up, no chaser jazz that burns the house down. I do not know who the drummer is, but he drives his teammates without remorse; puttin’ ‘em to work that gets them to sweat. The results are brilliant. I didn’t hear any noodling guitar when I checked it out, that dude’s fingers fretted like he and it were on fire. The bass player was rocking like he was at sea, and the horn player was blowing at gale force keeping every seat in the house sailing. It was great.
Thursday nights are reserved for Trova, the Latin American folk music. Both Cuban and Argentinian are revered here and the dedication to both the genre and styles are apparent. It always draws a very loyal and knowledgeable crowd. It may be the place in Cuenca to hear the “roots” music that shaped the South American songbook.
So, for a delicious breakfast, satisfying lunch, or anytime snack of homemade-with-love cooking, Sucré Salé, on Parque Calderon, should be on your radar as a fun place to visit.
And, if you have an appetite for smoking hot jazz; this place will serve you up a plate of some of Cuenca’s finest. Sly says, “Check it out.”
Sucré Salé Café: Luis Cordero 8-74 between Simon Bolivar and Mariscal Sucre, across from Parque Calderon; Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. except Tuesday and Thursday when it’s open until midnight for music, closed Sunday; Phone: 098-284-3181; Facebook
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