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Dec 11, 2017
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Posts Tagged ‘Mandy Estrella’

Plantain Girl will open Alpha-Teria inside new Alpha Brewing space

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

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One current local brewery trend has nothing to do with beer. Breweries tap a local restaurateur to provide quality eats for taproom customers while brewers concentrate on what they do best – beer. The latest of these collaborations is between Alpha Brewing Co. and Plantain Girl owner Mandy Estrella, who built a following for her Caribbean catering services and pop-up events.

As The Scoop reported in April, Alpha is currently constructing a new facility at 4310 Fyler Ave., slated to open in mid-February. In addition to a 15-barrel brew house, co-owner and head brewer Derrick Langeneckert said the new digs will also boast a taproom, restaurant and beer garden area with seating for approximately 300.

The restaurant, called Alpha-Teria, will feature Estrella’s signature Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican cuisine. The menu will include shareable plates like empanadas, pollo con queso and a rotating selection of tacos, along with mains like the ropa vieja plate (braised flank steak, white rice, black beans, maduros, pickled red onions and cilantro), and sandwiches like the tripleta with diced steak, pork, ham, Swiss cheese, grilled onions, lettuce and tomato on toasted French bread.

 

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Langeneckert said he was looking for something different to complement Alpha’s variety of beers. “Our beers are more aggressively flavored,” he said. “We just didn’t want to do the typical hamburger or pizza, because the food would get really lost. We were looking for something spicy.”

Langeneckert happened to visit Six Mile Bridge Beer during one of Estrella’s pop-ups there, and the rest was history.

“We were getting to the point where we were already going to phase out the pop-ups,” Estrella said. “We were about two years out from opening some form of a Latin fast-casual restaurant, so when Derrick approached me with this, it wasn’t exactly what I was going to do, but was kind of the middle ground. I could open a kitchen without having to open a full restaurant. It seemed like a great opportunity with less risk.”

She said the built-in audience of Alpha fans was also an incentive, as well as the fact that many Plantain Girl followers are from the Tower Grove area, where the new Alpha location will be. Estrella said she’ll continue to cater under the Plantain Girl moniker.

Plantain Girl photo by Ashley Gieseking

Matt Sorrell is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Alpha Brewing Co. to open second location

• What I Do: Mandy Estrella of Plantain Girl

• Trendwatch: What’s on your plate and in your glass in St. Louis now

What I Do: Mandy Estrella of Plantain Girl

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

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Mandy Estrella didn’t grow up with pernil and plantains – it wasn’t until she married a Dominican man after culinary school that she fell in love with the cuisines of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. That passion prompted Estrella to launch Plantain Girl, a Caribbean catering service that’s popped up at places like Crafty Chameleon, Six Mile Bridge Beer and, most recently, Anew. Here, Estrella talks education, sweet plantains and respecting another culture’s cuisine.

 

“I learned how to cook most things more so out of necessity when we moved back here, because the food wasn’t here. [My ex-husband] would constantly complain, ‘The food is not here – there’s nothing to eat.’ He knew how to cook some things, so I was able to take what I learned and start learning new things.”

“Oxtail was another thing you couldn’t find. We used to go to Soulard Market, and they had the whole tails. … You couldn’t find them in a regular supermarket. It was so expensive, which was crazy because the reason these cultures adapted these foods is because it was so cheap.”

“I’m not trying to misappropriate someone’s food culture. I have to be very cautious of this. I didn’t know if people were going to perceive it correctly. I didn’t know if [Hispanic] people would be like, ‘You’re just trying to make money off our food.’ … As long as the food is correct, they’re just thrilled anyone is making it.”

“I went to work at a bank for a few years. It’s the only job I had outside of a restaurant, and it was the most boring experience of my life. I was just sitting there. I found myself bothering account holders at other people’s desks because I was so bored. … I just kept thinking, ‘I have to have a 401(k). I have to have insurance. I have to sit at a desk. That’s what everybody does.’ I lasted about two years, and then I said, ‘I can’t do it.’”

“Most of what I’ve been doing so far is one big giant test kitchen. … It’s trying to figure out in St. Louis: what do people want to eat, which foods do they know, which foods do they not understand – that they’re not even going to order. It’s trying different things I haven’t cooked before and getting the recipes correct, putting it in front of Hispanic people to try and say, ‘Yes, that’s correct,’ or ‘No, you probably needed to do this.’”

“Sweet plantains are always on the menu. Even if [customers] don’t want them, I make them because I just know if it’s not put in front of them, they aren’t going to request it. When you put it in front of them they go, ‘This is fantastic!’ I know – I know!”

“[A woman] contacted me about catering at her home for her husband’s birthday. They’re both Venezuelan, and all their friends are Venezuelan and Colombian. So we did that in her home. It went great, and then six days later, they were at our popup at Anew, eating. … I was like, ‘You probably still have leftovers in your fridge and you’re up here buying food again.’ And they ordered probably five times more food than they needed and took it home with them.”

“I usually have 23 independent thoughts in my brain at all times. It’s tough to keep it all straight.”

Catch Plantain Girl at The Cuban Café pop-ups, Nov. 10 to 12 and Nov. 16 to 18 at Anew in Grand Center.

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.

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