- Matthew Schniper
- Churasco with a side of mofongo.
Don Guillo is bustling on a Friday night. Everyone’s speaking Spanish, leaving us feeling transported far from home. To Puerto Rico, specifically, though I’ve never been, so I liken the atmosphere to loud streetside cafés in other Latin lands to which I’ve ventured.
Behind the order counter in the open kitchen, six folks toil diligently, including chef/owner Francisco “Guillo” Beauchamp, a hulking figure with a big voice and smile who breaks away as we’re ordering to help answer questions we’ve posed to his wife Ester. He’s clearly proud of his heritage and food, making expressive faces as he describes his menu processes and a little modern culinary history back home. We learn how he and Ester met in culinary school, and how he holds more than two decades experience that leads up to this five-month old, tiny eatery that fits only a couple tight community tables and some perimeter bar-stool seating.
Location Details Don Guillo
We’re already in for a to-go order of a “pizza” empanada stuffed with cheese and tomato sauce, plus shrimp fried rice and the churrasco (skirt steak) with mofongo (fried, mashed plantains), when Guillo advises us to also try his bestselling Tripleta Don Guillo (a steal at $8, we soon learn). It’s his personalized version of a ubiquitous three-meat sandwich that he makes with cured ham and a little bacon for fat, chicken thighs and churrasco cuts, all lathered in mayo-ketchup and loaded with a shoestring fry garnishing into pan criollo (a custom Puerto Rican bread made for him locally by Delicias Bakery, similar to Cuban medianoche loaves). He says tripletas are the most popular food truck item on the island and basically a cultural touch-point for boricuas (the land’s original natives, now a colloquial term for Puertorriqueños, as defined literally on one wall of the eatery).
Once we bite into the monstrosity, unavoidably spilling ingredients out the sides, we understand the fealty to such a sensational gut-bomb, layered with respective grilled protein influences and the binding richness of the bacon fat and mayo, plus ketchup tartness and faint finishing sweetness from the soft, beautifully spongy bread.
Guillo has run out of several menu items, which we tend to find a good sign for freshness (no lingering inventory) and authenticity (to sell out means the town has legitimized the place). So he makes us a special fried rice to replace the yellow rice he’s run out of, and it too arrives loaded with choppings of the tripleta meats, plus perfectly seared, plump, butterflied shrimp and sappy, fried, ripe plantain pieces. The assembly fills an entire foam box for $12, providing two meals.
Again Guillo’s grillmaster status shows with our medium rare request on the steak leaning confidently on the rare side, garlic essence bursting from every bite with cilantro herbaceousness and pickled onion playing into the delightfully starchy mofongo served with a side of chicken broth to hydrate it. The empanada, purchased from a lady who sells them locally, we’re told, sports a lovely dough. We aren’t as big of fans of her tres leches cake and coconut flan, both highly cloying and tasting strongly of artificial flavorings and sweeteners.
So, for a real guilty-good treat worth the caloric splurge, stick with the tripleta, and thank Guillo for sharing it with the Springs.