I wanted to tell you all about a lovely lunch that I had with my son at Blue Corn Cafe on 9th Street in Durham. The restaurant has been a fixture on that college-catering street since 1997. Although the owner and chef, Antonio Rios is from Mexico, his cuisine is a fusion of all Latin American food.
We thoroughly enjoyed our experience there. The decor is bright and homey-ish. I was looking for some photos on their website and Facebook page to show you all what it looks like. However, I couldn't find much because posting loads of photos on their media sites does not seem to be a priority, which is fine because apparently their food is their actual priority.
The care that Blue Corn invests in their food is evident at first glance. The menu is very vegetarian and vegan friendly, with plenty of clearly marked options. This is one of those restaurants that walks the fine balance of having cuisine that feels authentic, yet is not so ethnic that you wonder if dishes are really vegetarian when they say they are. Unlike another Mexican grill where the owner responded to my questioning with "Well, the rice (which was on the vegetarian menu) has chicken broth in it because it just doesn't taste right without it." Hello?! The servers were very knowledgeable too about what to recommend to vegetarians. I have to actually say that the serving staff that we met were fantastic - friendly, attentive (but not smothering), helpful, and cheerful. You can't beat the good impression given by a top-rate staff.
My son and I were super excited to see plantains (3 different kinds!) on the menu. In fact we had quite a difficult time picking out what to order because there were so many great choices. We ended up going with chips and queso dip (fell off the wagon there). I had their avocado and tomato salad with cilantro vinaigrette dressing (pictured below). Woo-wee, was that dressing the bomb! I think I put as much of it on the chips as I did on the salad. Now the remarkable thing is that I generally do not even like salad. However, Blue Corn Cafe made everything sound so fresh and inviting that I decided to try one, and was very pleasantly surprised with how filling it was.
Since I knew I would be reviewing the restaurant, we decided to order a dessert (in the name of research, of course). There are fewer egg-free, gluten-free options on the dessert menu, but that's pretty standard. My son opted for the mango sorbet, and we were both thrilled with it. Not only was the sorbet delicious, it was artfully served in a tall glass with slices of fresh mango. Fantastic send-off for a hot afternoon!
The only thing to be aware of for fellow parents of babies - the bathrooms were not so friendly for baby changing and the downtown parking situation, means you are likely to have to pull out the stroller/car seat combo. Otherwise I highly recommend paying Blue Corn Cafe a visit. The food was very good and reasonably priced and the service memorable.