Editor’s note, 6-11-15: We returned to La Ceiba for breakfast and experienced a locked front door and disorganized dining room (shortly after 9 a.m.), a 35-minute wait (for two entrees) in a nearly empty restaurant, and service best summed up as “indifference with a sprinkling of neglect.” Take our endorsement of the food below (which still stands) with a sizable grain of salt.
As the warm sun begins to shine on South Minneapolis once again, so begins the mass migration to lazy breakfasts at Victor’s 1959 Cafe. We love it there, but can’t stand being taunted by the smell of black beans and plantains when we’re at the back of a 20-strong line. We found a new remedy for that situation: head east over the highway into Powderhorn, and get the same desayuno Cubano at La Ceiba Bistro.
Opened early this month, La Ceiba is the fourth concurrent eatery for Hector Ruiz of Cafe Ena, Rincon 38, and La Fresca. While we’ve noticed those three restaurants striving for smaller niches within Latin cuisine, everything about La Ceiba is back to basics. In many ways La Ceiba is the reincarnation of El Meson, the longtime Lyndale Avenue favorite that Ruiz helmed for over a decade before the building’s shoddy condition forced its closure in 2012. Many of the same entrees (the rice plates, paella, mofongo, corvine over coconut risotto) have made the move, as have El Meson’s “Best of” awards, which now line the entrance of the new spot.
La Ceiba’s address is listed as being on Bloomington Avenue, but it’s actually tucked away from the corner on 35th Street (look for the striped awning). Inside, the walls are bright accents spanning the spectrum from orange to lime to lilac, with paintings of Cuban flags, toucans, and watermelons. It’s a Caribbean joint — you get the picture. They serve sandwiches and soup during lunch before offering El Meson favorites at dinner, but we expect La Ceiba will become our go-to breakfast in Powderhorn (along with Tiny Diner).
The breakfast menu has most of the Latin daybreakers you’d expect to find: ropa vieja, pork and red wine onions, lots of black beans and rice. Our barometer for the Latin breakfast menu is huevos rancheros ($9), and La Ceiba has exactly the rendition we want. The eggs came over-medium, so the yolks slowly oozed into a bed of deeply flavored black beans and crisp tortilla. Nothing on La Ceiba’s breakfast menu is over $11 (even the sandwiches at lunch don’t break $10), so the bistro scores major points for value as well.
No matter what time of day you’re there, be sure to share a plate of tostones ($7). Ruiz’s superlative touch with fried plantains hasn’t lost a step since El Meson. At La Ceiba they come a dozen to a plate, expertly fried, chewy, and simple. The accompanying salsa and crema give them just the right acidic boost.
La Ceiba Bistro
Caribbean staples in Powderhorn
3500 Bloomington Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
OWNER / CHEF: Hector Ruiz
HOURS: Sun-Thu 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m
Fri-Sat 9 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: Breakfast-Lunch $6-$12, Dinner $12-$22