The patio at Victor’s 1959 Cafe
photos by Terry Brennan
Joy: Victor’s 1959 is a zesty bite of Cuba in the heart of south Minneapolis. The low-slung little building is a visual riot of vibrant colors inside, between the floral oilcloths on the tables and the graffiti on the walls.
Jason: Cuban native Victor Valens founded the café in 1999 with his then-wife Niki Stavrou. They split years ago and she bought him out. So when you see her, don’t ask if you can talk to Victor.
Joy: I’d always thought of this as a classic Minneapolis breakfast destination—I hadn’t even realized they were open for dinner.
Jason: Lunch, too—you’ve been missing out! I love the contrast of flavors in the picadillo plato: it’s ground beef sautéed with peppers, Spanish green olives, capers, and raisins, then finished in a Creole sauce. It’s sweet, salty, spicy—and the sweet plantains on the side are crazy good. All for $11! The bistec encebollado—lime-and-garlic marinated, thinly sliced steak—is also fabulous.
Victor’s picadillo plato
Joy: We must have a moment for the perfect Cubano, with that crackling, griddled crust, tender pork, salty ham, tangy mustard, and vinegary pickles all held together by a layer of cheese.
Jason: And also the snacks: I loved the yuca rellenas—a ball of starchy yuca stuffed with cheese—and the albondigas cubanas, which are meatballs with beef, pork, and chorizo. The only dish that underwhelmed me was the under-seasoned Creole shrimp.
Joy: I did appreciate the quick, friendly service we received and the come-as-you-are ease of the room.
Jason: The ambiance is part of the charm—bring your Sharpie and leave your name on the wall. There’s good cooking coming out of that cramped kitchen. Tasty, fast, authentic Cuban food. ¡Viva Victor’s!
Victor’s 1959 Cafe Quick Tips
Reservations: Brunch is first-come, first-served and often packed, but you can (and should) get reservations for dinner, especially Thursday–Saturday.
Parking: Tiny lot, but plenty of street parking along Grand Ave.
Sides: Don’t miss the fried yuca and the bowl of sliced mango.
Victor’s 1959 Cafe
3756 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-827-8948, victors1959cafe.com