There aren't many restaurants I'd describe as sweet, but that's the phrase that comes to mind when I think of the Black Bean Café.
The family-owned eatery, open for breakfast and lunch (quite a late lunch for those who like it), offers a fairly simple but eclectic menu featuring a mix of Cuban, Tex-Mex and basic American fare -- with a couple of other ethnic dishes thrown in.
The décor is bright, fun and with is own simple charm. The owners, Lisa and Glenn Qesada, are avid surfers. In fact, Mr. Qesada was once a pro who traveled the world and the décor reflects that passion -- a large mural depicting a surfer riding inside the tunnel of a breaking wave. Smaller beach-themed paintings are scattered around, some for sale.
Mr. Qesada is the chef and Ms. Qesada handles the service -- with help from their children during the week. She runs to pick her youngest up from school every day and brings her straight back to help with the late afternoon chores.
It creates a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere that makes it perfect for those looking for a home away from home.
The breakfast menu offers a selection of eggs and combinations, plus a yogurt-granola parfait and a list of breakfast burritos. The wine list includes mimosas, so customers can make it a really festive morning meal.
Lunch includes an appetizer list that throws in a caprese salad along with quesadillas, plain or with a choice of chicken or shrimp.
On a recent visit, I ordered one of the chef's specials, blackened fish with black beans and rice, which came with a dollop of fried plantains and a bed of salad.
Mr. Qesada also kindly provided a caprese salad appetizer, which was truly one of the best I've had in any restaurant in the area. It came with a combination of beautifully fresh red and yellow tomatoes, chunks of mozzarella and basil that had just been picked fresh off their own plants right in back of the kitchen. The dressing was light and refreshing, a perfect complement to the classic Italian dish.
Mahi-mahi hasn't been my favorite fish, but a taste of the Black Bean's blackened version made me revise that opinion. It was delicate, very fresh and well seasoned.
The fish is fresh, flown in from Costa Rica on a bed of ice and served as soon as possible. You can order it with the all-American fries and some Cuban bread, but it's a shame not to opt for the Cuban-style black beans and rice. There's nothing bland about their black beans, which are deliciously spicy and a perfect complement to the blackened fish. I was given a serving of the Cuban bread, which they get from Ybor City, also very, very fresh.
Tucked away in a small shopping strip on A1A in Daytona Beach Shores, just a few blocks north of Dunlawton Boulevard, the Black Bean Café is well worth a try for anyone looking for simple, delicious food in a simple setting. (There's a bit of a glimpse of an ocean view, from the front windows, too. )
Black Bean Café, 3218 S. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach Shores. Call (386) 256-3901.