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Random bites: Rancho Alegre's new location
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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.