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Playa Cafe and food truck in Milwaukee cook up Puerto Rican flavors

Kristine M Kierzek

Back in 1994, Manuel Perez opened Playa Cafe, 1330 S. Chavez Drive, specializing in the Puerto Rican foods he knew and loved. Back in San Juan, her mother ran a bakery, and he learned from her both his work ethic and recipes from her.

For more than two decades, his family-run restaurant near South 16th Street and Greenfield Avenue has been a stop for carry-out favorites, including the Tripleta, a sandwich with pastrami, ham and steak. The pastrami is a favorite of Perez’s.

He spends hours prepping his meats and brining before cooking anything for a customer. The menu also features Puerto Rican favorites including alcapurrias (plantain with meat), sorullos with cheese and guava paste, pastelillos (handheld pastry with fillings), tostones (fried plantains), and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). The Playa Special is a sandwich loaded with turkey, pastrami, salami, ham and pork or chicken. Whole chickens are prepared and sold on Fridays and Saturdays only.

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