Finally, a down to earth Latin restaurant that holds true to it’s motto “Real Food, Simply Good”. All too often there are several, if not too many, Latin restaurants in almost every Orlando neighborhood claiming to be the best. Maybe so, but for who? As in the case of most ethnic driven restaurant, the focus is on just that ethnicity. Everyone else, who by the way makes up the complete dining scene, seems sidelined. Lost opportunity.
Rice and Beans at Waterford Lakes Town Center have bridged that divide and taken the inclusion of the entire neighborhood and dining scene into full consideration. Waterford Lakes Town Center which is steps away from millions of college aged students at University of Central Florida though, still very suburban family oriented. It is a no brainer to have college aged students working in the restaurant, a welcomed move away from the traditional older stereotypical attendants in neigborly Latin restaurants. Upon entrance, there is an immediate lively, fun, approachable vibe that screams, Bien benitos, welcome.
The exterior storefront is nondescript, like every other strip mall. Although, this particular build-out boast brighter, vibrant colors which lends well to the more affluent Alafaya Trail corridor. The interior, takes a whole new blast on the quick service concept. Bright bold colors adorned with ethnic Latin art covers the walls. Tastefully displayed food in steam table style servers presents itself to lure the uninitiated. The attendants are quick to smile and start a casual conversation. Questions are encouraged and even little tastes are offered. It is very refreshing to be greeted with warm hospitality when venturing out on a different cuisine. In as much as there are buffet style quick service items, there is also a full dine in or take out menu. There is also a fiesta catering menu.
We had a few combinations from the steam table to share and sample. The Beef Stew was thick, flavorful, with chunks of beef and well cooked potatoes. The gravy was tomato and herb based. Roasted Pork was well seasoned with crispy skin and succulent fall apart meat. Chicken Fricasse was tender juicy and flavorful. Crowning meat of them all was the Goat Stew. Succulent tender pieces of goat meat fall apart in a thick gooey tomato based gravy with herbs and Latin goodness. If this dish was not made by an abuela, grandma, I would be shocked. The yellow rice, pigeon peas rice, and brown rice and beans were all soft, fluffy and flavorful. Sweet Plantains were spot on, not too ripe, not too green, just the right amount of sugar. Seafood Salad was full of plumb medium shrimp, onions, cilantro, squid, in a medley of citrus juice. The Boiled Red Beans were a treat in itself. Bursting with flavors and heartiness. Flan was delicately balanced between a sugar coma and soft fluffy sweetness. All of these goodies were washed down with traditional Latin sodas of Merengue, Raspberry, Iced Tea.
Rice and Beans Cocina Latina delivers on its motto of Real Food, Simply Good. They are not trying to be a fanciful restaurant with any nouveau taste and flavors with dazzling presentation and blosterous personalities behind the food. The are simply sharing what the good honest down to earth people of Latin influences scattered across the Caribbean Islands cook at home. The vibe was welcoming, service great, food great, prices reasonable, portions not overcompensating. What else can you ask for, a wheel barrow to roll you out?