Morgan City’s own Cuban experience

Horace J. Boudreaux Sr.
February 6, 2009
Jimmy Crochet
February 10, 2009
Horace J. Boudreaux Sr.
February 6, 2009
Jimmy Crochet
February 10, 2009

J ust when I believe I have exhausted rare finds in the Tri-parish area, someone informs me of yet another dining opportunity about which I am not familiar.

Such is the case with the Latin Corner, located at 201 Railroad Ave. in Morgan City.

The restaurant is owned and operated by Frank Sterling, a pleasant and capable chef/owner, who decided about five years ago to pursue his dream of delivering culinary delights with his native Cuban twist to the public.

Sterling left Cuba for our part of the country years ago. His Latin Corner is the culmination of a lifelong dream, and Morgan City is better off that he took the chance to share his brand of food with us. I have a special place in my heart for first-generation Americans, as they tend to appreciate the opportunities provided here a little more than many of us who have called the U.S. home longer – and Sterling’s dedication to pursuing his desire to run his own restaurant is a testament to the Sterlings’ resolve and heritage.

To you, Frank, we tip our hat and hope you keep building upon what you’ve started and trust that the public soon learns of this oasis.

Latin Corner is located slightly more than a block from the seawall in “old” Morgan City.

The restaurant itself is simple with a Caribbean theme, 12-foot ceilings, concrete floors and a mix of wall murals and paintings that blend Sterling’s Cuban and newfound south Louisiana heritages.

The artist, Sterling’s sister Sonia, also oversees the establishment’s happenings many nights.

The space is adequate. Latin Corner’s recent expansion doubled the size of its dining area.

Although the space is inviting, I think the boxiness along with the concrete floors gives an austere feeling. Perhaps some area rugs would warm the space.

Where the restaurant’s interior stumbles in warmth, the staff more than makes up for. Latin Corner’s friendly wait staff delivers a personal dining experience. And Sterling made the rounds, visiting with customers on each of our visits. It was a nice, appreciated touch.

The Latin Corner bills itself as the place for authentic Cuban sandwiches, which, served on a fresh Panini bun and grill-pressed, are a meal unto themselves, but we submit it is much more. Need proof? Check out the night menu.

We started with the Megatizer ($10.75) on our first trip. It’s an assortment of appetizers: a trio of quesadillas, potato balls, ham croquettes and meat pies. The ham croquettes are an interesting dish and fairly simple – basically ham and cheese deep-fried in a ball. It is something you don’t see often, but it works as a change of pace.

The meat pies – packed with seasoned beef – are also deep-fried.

On a return trip, we began with the black beans ($2.99 cup, $3.99 bowl), duck quesadillas with guacamole ($5.75) and an order of fried plantains (12 for $2.50).

The beans were creamy and quite tasty. Sterling’s ingredients are hush-hush, but we did detect sautéed garlic and onion – and a dash of a secret spice. If you’re a black bean fan, this is the place for you.

A friend of mine tried to recreate Latin Corner’s black beans at home several weeks ago. The effort was well intended and could be labeled a success, but the dish simply didn’t measure up to Latin Corner’s consistency.

The duck quesadillas were a solid choice, as expected. And I really enjoyed the fried plantains.

A member of the banana family, a plantain is smaller and sweeter than what is typically sold in grocery stores. The unique texture and light, mildly sweet taste prompted me to keep sampling more.

My entrée consisted of a Cuban sandwich ($7.50 whole, $5.50 half and $8.50 as a combo with fries and a drink). It is a colossal undertaking, comprised of ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mayo and mustard. I was forewarned that the whole sandwich would probably be enough for dinner that night, with a bit left over for the next day. Trust me, that’s true.

Cuban sandwiches – the cornerstone of Latin Corner – are its strength. Prepared on a grilled press, the choices range from basic ham and cheese to pork to a chorizo (Spanish sausage topped with Swiss cheese and mayonnaise) to an exotic Ropa Vieja (shredded meat cooked in wine sauce with bell peppers, onions, garlic and pimentos and covered with Swiss cheese) or the Pipolatta (ham, mortadella and salami topped with provolone cheese on French bread covered with an olive spread and grill pressed).

One of my dinner companions tried the Portobello mushroom with shrimp ($12.99). An excellent selection, I believe it’s one of their signature dishes. It is a grilled Portobello mushroom, topped with shrimp, sautéed onions and is covered with a generous amount of provolone cheese, baked to form a crisp shell.

Variations on the dish include vegetables and provolone cheese ($10.99), grilled chicken ($11.99) or steak and shrimp (14.99) stuffed in the grilled Portobello mushroom.

We also tried the grilled tilapia ($14.99), which came served two ways: with garlic butter sauce and grilled vegetables or garnished with pineapple and strawberries. Both were prepared well, although I preferred the fruit-topped version. The combined taste of the pineapple and tilapia was unique and refreshing. It is a dish worth remembering.

The 14-ounce rib eye steak with twice-baked potatoes, salad and grilled vegetables ($24.99) rounded out our selection. I admit it did come as advertised but, for the price, I preferred the fish and Portobello mushroom entrees.

A good friend who regularly frequents the Latin Corner highly recommended the baby back ribs ($17.99 for a half rack or $36 for a full rack).

The restaurant also has a children’s menu, which we didn’t have the chance to sample, as well as an assortment of salads – grilled shrimp, chicken, steak and ham and even a jambalaya salad.

Latin Corner also has a brisk lunch crowd and does offer daily plate lunches for dine-in or take-out. As a general rule, Mondays is picadillo (ground meat cooked in a wine sauce with tomatoes, olives, bell peppers and onions); on Tuesdays, it’s grilled chicken breast smothered with onions; Thursday’s are reserved for Cuban-style roast pork; and it’s shrimp fettucini on Fridays. Wednesday’s menu changes weekly. Each plate lunch comes with rice, black beans, salad, fried plantains and bread.

Sterling is in the process of obtaining a liquor license; in the meantime, guests must bring their own wine, Cerveza or other libation if their want alcohol to complement the meal. We’d been alerted ahead, so we had our wine in tow as did a number of other patrons.

Overall, the Latin Corner is off the beaten path. It’s a place most people won’t know about without some prior notice. We enjoyed this eatery, it’s personal, family atmosphere and its unique food.

To my Morgan City friends who insisted we give it a try, thank you.

Hours Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Reservations not required Plenty of parking Attire: Casual