I can’t remember now how or why we ended up at Tropical Star Restaurant – I just remember that we did and that it was a damn fine idea.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Tropical Star. It looks pretty much the same. It’s part market, part restaurant. There are only about 4 tables inside with 2 outdoor tables. It was full inside the tiny market/restaurant so we opted to eat outside. When you go up to the register to grab a menu to order, this glass plate full of delicious looking cookies is staring at you. YOU CANNOT RESIST THE COOKIES. Or at least, I can’t.
Jake bought cookies for us and the friendly, talkative lady at the counter (who was the daughter of one of the owners) suggested we get the smaller container of mini alfajores. The container costs just $5 and you get a little more cookie bang for your buck. We totally had dessert first and munched on these delicious little buttery caramel filled cookies before our meal came out. The dulce de leche tucked in between the cookies was smooth, creamy, and extra delicious. It took some restraint to not immediately eat the whole container. I was good and only had one before dinner (and one after dinner – I mean, come on).
We decided to also try out a few sodas that we had never seen before. The ladies working at Tropical Star recommended the Columbiana soda and both said it was their favorite on the bunch. It tasted like an orange flavored cream soda. The Coco Rico had a really light coconut flavor – kind of like a fizzy coconut drink. And the Kola Champagne tasted like cream soda mixed with bubble gum. The Kola was my least favorite and I actually preferred the Coco Rico out of the three. The Columbiana was just a tad too sweet for my tastes – cream soda is also just not my favorite thing so maybe I’m a little biased against it. The boys both liked the Columbiana soda the best of the three. T thought the Coco Rico was pretty weird. That just meant I got to have more it for myself!
[Tostones Rellenos / $4.95]
I had to reference my old post about Tropical Star so I could reorder these Tostones Rellenos. I remembered they were my favorite item from that visit but I couldn’t think of the name at first!
Tostones Rellenos are stuffed Tostones filled with black beans served with a side of avocado. The avocado wasn’t… totally… ripe. It was a little bit on the hard side so it reduced the creamy splendor of this dish. I think in the past it also had cheese on top and I’m sorry to say I don’t remember what’s on top of this version. The tostones cups were still really yummy though but I think I would have liked it better also covered in cheese.
[Chicharrón Con Arepa / $4.25]
Chicharrón! You really can’t go wrong ordering some homemade pork rinds (which is served with an arepa or a cornmeal griddle cake). The arepa didn’t really do anything for me but the chicharrón is what crispy crunchy porky dreams are made of! The skin had a delightful and satisfying crunch when you bit into it which shot you into porky heaven. I’m kind of glad it wasn’t a large portion and that I had to share otherwise I would have hoarded this and just gnawed on the skin. YUM.
[Papa Rellena / $2.75]
Oh, potato balls… I can’t resist you. If you don’t know, a Papa Rellena (or potato ball) is a potato puff, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, filled with seasoned beef.
It’s kind of like if mashed potatoes and meatballs had a baby! The potato ball at Tropical Star is soft and creamy like a good mashed potato but then it’s covered in a golden crispy crust and filled with a mixture of ground beef and spices. The mix of textures really made this a stellar little appetizer and the ground beef had a wonderful seasoning.
A little overview of our shared dinner that evening. Minus the potato ball. Maybe we had already eaten it by the time I took this? I don’t remember, but that sounds like us.
[Cuban Sandwich / $6.95]
We got two of Tropical Star’s sandwiches to share. One was the Cuban Sandwich which had slices of roast pork and ham topped with Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and mayo. It’s served on baguette bread and pressed hot. You can even still see those damn pickles in the sandwich before I tossed them out of the piece that I ate from (Jake happily munched on the pickles – that’s why we work – he eats those crazy pickles and nothing goes to waste!). The sandwich was pressed nicely giving the sandwich a crunchy texture with the hot meats and gooey melted Swiss cheese. That bit of mustard perks it all up and gives it a little kick of flavor.
With the sandwiches you can choose either a salad or a fries. We got one sandwich with a nice fresh salad and the other with fries.
[Milanesa Sandwich / $6.95]
The other sandwich we tried at Tropical Star was the Milanesa Sandwich. We got it with breaded beef but you have the option of also getting chicken or pork. The sandwich is then topped off with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. The milanesa is quite thin here. I kinda don’t remember a lot about this sandwich as I prefered the Cuban sandwich over the Milanesa. I think the gooey melted cheese won my heart. Sorry, Milanesa.
It was a successful revisit. I’ll be back to “revisit” a few items here (I’m looking at you, Chicharrón).
Tropical Star Restaurant and Specialty Market
6163 Balboa Ave, San Diego, CA 92111