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Random bites: Rancho Alegre's new location
Rancho Alegre has expanded, you bet

Rancho Alegre Cuban Restaurant

This little southside restaurant has been, without question, one of my favorite destinations for great value and excellent food. Now, a second, larger and squeaky clean location is available downtown on MLK and Jones Street. I love the tamal, a plump, steamed masa dish that come simply spiced or with a side of roasted pork. On a recent lunch visit, I sampled chicharrones de pollo - boneless chicken chunks, rice, beans, and sweet plantains. The white meat chicken is lightly dusted with flour and fried. The ample portion was tender and flavorful. I chose black beans in a classic soffrito which I promptly dumped over my moist, yellow rice. And don't overlook your plantains. I spent lots of years poking around Cuban eateries in Miami - and these plantains are among the best I've ever eaten. Two bits of advice: Call ahead a few hours and order paella for a crowd. This savory seafood paella is fresh, a stunning celebration of Juan Manuel Rodriguez' culinary skills and a dining experience you'll talk about over and over. And save room for desserts. Each choice is made fresh, in-house and ranges from traditional sweets like flan and tres leches to cheesecake drizzled with passion fruit syrup. Finish with a dark, bold Cubano coffee! Service is attentive and food comes pretty quickly. A full bar offers a nice selection of domestic and import beers, as well as a rapidly growing wine list and a full range of cocktails.

402 MLK Blvd./292-1656

Beer will flow like...

Yeah, there will thousands of gallons of beer served this week - most of it that yellow (or green) fizzy stuff without much character. I stopped in Moon River Brewing Co. last week and sampled their Pilsner - the mildest of the beers hand-crafted by Brewmaster John Pinkerton. It was nicely hazy - a sign that it's unfiltered. And while Pilsner don't get the respect they deserve, this pils from Moon River is a rock-solid drinker loaded with grassy malts and well-balanced bitterness. While Savannah Fest continues to be Moon River's flagship, new additions like Pink's Pilsner, Slo-vannah and the classic Captain's Porter round out a selection that I'm happy to say are our hometown brews.