Cafe Cusco is not what we would normally pick for dinner. When I was researching options that are local hot spots, this one kept popping up on my radar. I finally decided that it was time for us to taste what the Peruvian cuisine has to offer. The restaurant is located on Commercial Street in Springfield, Missouri. This historic northern section of the city was once the leading region, because of the nearby railroad. As time passed, the railroad became less concentrated in the city, and the interest in this area waned.
Historic C-Street on the Rise
Cafe Cusco is housed in a building that was built in 1883. At one point it was the headquarters of the nearby Frisco Railroad. Owners Joe Gidman, and his mother Claire, have revived this building into a popular, and highly praised lunch and dinner option. The two are dedicated to seeing Commercial Street rise back into prominence in Springfield. Joe has a good head for business, and has made selective moves to help stabilize costs at his restaurant. He quickly saw how expensive spices were when bought in quantities just big enough for his business. He quickly discovered that by buying in bulk, he could sell to other local businesses to help lower costs for all of them. Soon he opened a tea and spice shop located just down the street from his restaurant.
Joe fell in love with Peruvian foods during an extensive visit to the country. The time he spent there stuck with him, and years later he was able to see his dream come to reality. The building they purchased is a great fit for their restaurant. The copper coated high ceilings, and extensive woodwork create a wonderful backdrop for the interesting menu. For our visit we were seated in one of the covered booths. These create an atmosphere of intrigue, and certainly make the visit feel special. Our server, Sam, walked us through the menu, and started us out by suggesting a couple of cocktail options. One is similar to a margarita, while the other is a Peruvian form of sangria. Both were delicious.
Cafe Cusco Cuisine
Joe had us try a couple of the signature appetizers, which are customer favorites. These are traditional foods that he found in many restaurants in Peru. Anticuchos Pobre consists of beef heart marinated with a zesty seasoning. It had a beefy texture, but with a zesty accent. The sauce was deceivingly mild at first, but finished with just a hint of a kick. Not enough to burn, but the flavor kept drawing us back.
The other appetizer was a Tamal. This is an Andean tamale wrapped in banana leaves. It is stuffed with vegetables, and comes with a cheese sauce and marinated red onions. We knew we still had our main courses to savor, but we just couldn’t stop nibbling on this dish. When you order it, be sure to spread the sauce and onions over the tamal, before digging in. These are designed to compliment the dish.
Crystal decided to test the Chicken Para Rayos. It consists of a grilled chicken breast coated in a creamy pepper sauce. The sauce includes sauteed shrimp, tomato, and spinach. This is all served on a bed of garlic rice with a side of pineapple. The sauce is light, and flavorful, but not overpowering.
My selection was Puca Picante, which is an ancient Incan dish. Toasted peanuts, garlic, and potato are blended in a honey beet sauce. I chose to include pork in the dish, which added an additional layer to the flavors. The crunch of the peanuts was a pleasant surprise. The dish has some sweetness from the beets, but there is certainly an underlying heat from the peppers used in the sauce. After our dinner, we had a lengthy conversation with Joe. His love for the people and culture of Peru are apparent, as is his desire to share these with others. Along with Claire, his mother, they are giving others a chance to taste the flavors of this rarely featured cuisine. This place ranked high with us, and we ended up talking with Joe for about an hour. It is hard to imagine a better representative for Springfield tourism. This place is certainly a must-do for those looking to expand their dining experience.