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30 Years of Cafe Latte
By: Stephanie March | Posted: 08/30/2012
I absolutely need to apologize for something. I've been holding out on you, selfishly.
All summer long I've been eating at this secret joint, and I haven't wanted to share. The Caribbean is a marina on Echo Bay that has a dock-side deck restaurant. For boaters, it's on the back side of Big Island, for drivers, it's on a peninsula neighborhood of winding roads jam-packed with summer "cottages." If you get turned around and lost, just keep the water on your left and you'll be fine.
You know how sometimes you just want to eat by the water, but you can't stomach the tanorexics, the back-of-the-neck sunglasses guys, or the thumpingly bad bar band? Well the Caribbean has been my oasis. The marina has been around for decades, owned and operated by the Koch family since 1960, but it's been sporadically opened and closed most of my life. I remember wild stories from the '80s, but only recently found it open and serving the public again. It's not really even a restaurant, it's just a deck, there's no inside and if it rains . . . oh well. It's a relaxed deck with plastic tables and chairs, beer as fancy as Leinies, and a view to fat catfish that respond favorably to bits of fries.
And while the chillaxing is what draws me, what keeps me is the burger. It's a worthy, beefy, hand-formed chunk of meat that when cooked to medium (and you must make sure they know that's how you want it, don't assume) is one of the best burgers on the lake. It puts certain other popular dock-side burgers on a boat to nowhere. The fries have always been hot, the wings are fine, but we mainly stick to the burgers.
Going in, it's extremely important to note that this isn't a place for impatience or feelings of entitlement. Service is what it is, it may be fast, it may be slow, it's a roll of the dice. If you can't learn how to just go with the flow, soak up the sun, feed some catfish, and chat with the neighboring table . . . this isn't your bag. If you can, you may still be able to eek out what's left of the glory of summer with a bit of waterside eating.
Stephanie March is Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s food and dining editor. See bio
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