Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cafe Cusco … and I mean it!

Cafe Cusco, on the corner of Commercial & Robberson in Springfield, MO
My family and friends make fun of me because I tend to exaggerate: “That ice cream was the best I’ve ever eaten!” “I’ve never stayed at a better hotel.” “That was the most exciting tennis match ever!” If you know me, you’ve heard me--I can’t resist speaking in superlatives.

But this time I mean it, by golly! Springfield, MO can boast having one of the most terrific gluten-free restaurants anywhere! It’s a lovely Peruvian restaurant located at 234 E. Commercial Street called Café Cusco.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Springfield has many, many wonderful restaurants where people who are avoiding gluten for whatever reason can find a great meal. (I can’t say enough about many of the great restaurants along South St., for example. Check out my blogs titled “Eating gluten-free in downtown Springfield (MO),” “Springfield (MO) gluten-free restaurant update,” and “The Chain Gang”  for lists of my other favorites.)

Chicken Aji Verde
Café Cusco, however, has dedicated itself to serving healthy, tasty meals to people with celiac disease and other food issues—but, trust me, anyone, even the most eager gluten-eaters in the world, will find the food there worthy of raving about.  It’s co-owned by Joe Gidman and his mother Claire Gidman, and it grew out of Joe’s entrepreneurial spirit, his personal quest for a more healthy diet, and his travels in Peru.

What makes the place special for folks with celiac disease? For one thing, almost everything on the menu is gluten-free! Celiac sufferers will appreciate the fact that there is a footnote on the menu that says, “*cannot be prepared gluten free”—and on a menu of 43 items (yes, I counted them), there are only five asterisks! For another, there’s not a single bag of wheat flour on the premises, according to Joe. Their bread is made off-site so that there is no wheat flying around in the air contaminating the food.

I recently had lunch there, and after poring over the many interesting options, I chose the Chicken Aji Verde, which consists of chicken, peppers, and onions in roasted cilantro, garlic and onions with rice. Oh, yeah! It was wonderful! Five stars! Two thumbs up! You should have seen me wolfing it down!

Charming interior view of Cafe Cusco
Next time, I’m going to try the Cebiche Tacos (spring fed tilapia in grilled white corn soft tacos with lettuce, sweet pepper pico, crispy potato straws, Huancaina cheese sauce and salsa verde). Or maybe the Huevos Verde Sandwich (two eggs fried with cilantro aji, black olive spread, melted provolone and red onion salsa--to which you can add country pork--on a gluten free bun). Or maybe I’ll take the Tamal (an Andean tamale in toasted banana leaf with seasoned white corn masa, peanut and coconut oil, served with pico, salsa criolla and Huancaina cheese sauce. Or maybe … well, you get the idea. I’m just going to have to work my way through the menu.

And did I mention the atmosphere? A charming pub setting with tasteful, relaxing décor, great service, and comfortable seating. What more can you ask for? It’s the best cafe ever!

Café Cusco’s hours of operation are Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.