Kuya’s Sandwiches + Cooking Fills Randolph With Filipino Flavor | First bite | Seven days

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  • Sarah Priestap
  • Filipino bánh mì

At first glance, Kuya sandwiches + Cooking just like any other sandwich shop in a small town in Vermont. Looking through the tall windows of Randolph’s Main Street, passers-by will find a familiar scene of mismatched wooden chairs, walls adorned with artwork, and handwritten chalkboard menus.

What is on these menus is what sets Kuya’s apart. Along with making classic Italian, vegetarian, Ruben, and French sandwiches, Patty and Travis Burns fill sandwiches with the flavors and ingredients of the Philippines, from marinated pork belly in a pineapple barbecue sauce to roasted chicken curry. yellow and bananas.

Kuya is the Tagalog word for “brother,” widely used in the Philippines as a term of affection and respect, said Patty, 36, who moved from the Philippines to the United States in 2006. She settled in San Francisco , where she helped a friend run a Filipino American restaurant for almost 10 years.

Travis, 31, found his way to California after graduating from Randolph Union High School in 2008. After working at the now-closed Three Bean Café in Randolph and a delicatessen his father owned in Waitsfield, he continued his restaurant career in the Bay Area.

The two met at Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails, an Italian restaurant in Alameda, Calif., Where they served side by side. “We remained friends,” Patty said with a chuckle. “And years later, we ended up being romantics.”

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Korean Beef Bulgogi with Marinated Ginger and Broccoli - SARAH PRIESTAP

  • Sarah Priestap
  • Korean Beef Bulgogi with Marinated Ginger and Broccoli

In 2019, they married and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to open their own restaurant. But after the outbreak of the pandemic, they decided to return to Randolph instead. The time had come: a friend who owned a grocery store in town was ready to go, leaving the space available on Main Street.

“We were confident that we could build something and enough knowledge to thrive and survive pretty much anywhere you put us,” Patty said. “Being from the Philippines, I am resilient and used to difficulties and hard work. ”

The couple opened Kuya’s on February 26, 2021. They started with take-out, and when the state lifted its pandemic restrictions in June, they added on-site dining.

“There is nothing quite like seeing diners truly enjoying your food and seeing their reaction to the first bite,” said Patty. “Especially with the kinds of things that we have – we’re kinda there for a lot of people here.”

It’s no surprise that many Kuya customers are unfamiliar with Philippine food; The only other Filipino restaurant in Vermont is Pica-pica in St. Johnsbury.

Patty tells customers it’s all about the flavor. “It’s a melting pot of tasty food that’s mostly eaten at home. And, you know, we’ve been colonized by Spain for about 300 years, so there’s a lot of Spanish influence,” a- she added.

When I ate my first bite of a Kuya sandwich, this flavor blew me away. I shouted a “Yum! Emphatically across the restaurant to Patty, who lit up in response.

It was a bit of a weird time for sandwiches – dusk on a Sunday – and my husband and I were the only ones in the restaurant. A crowd wouldn’t have stopped my explosion, however.

I had ordered the Filipino bánh mì ($ 11), which Patty described as a “fusion” version of the popular Vietnamese street sandwich and Kuya bestseller. The hot baguette was stuffed with the usual pickled carrots and radishes, cilantro and sriracha aioli. But there was also a big slice of grilled pork belly marinated in a tangy pineapple barbecue sauce.

“It’s like the national marinade for the whole country,” Patty said. “It’s a standard Filipino flavor that you find on the streets and in people’s homes.”

I made the mistake of giving my husband a bite to eat. He then shyly suggested we share, offering me half of his French dip sandwich ($ 11).

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Filipino without rival, made with buttercream, cashew nut meringue and crushed cashew nuts - SARAH PRIESTAP

  • Sarah Priestap
  • Filipino without rival, made with buttercream, cashew meringue and crushed cashews

Thinly sliced ​​roast beef over French dip is topped with horseradish mascarpone, caramelized onions and Provolone cheese. After a dip in the rich and flavorful juice served on the side, the meat melted in my mouth. It was a perfectly composed sandwich and reflected the Burns’ love for food from around the world.

But I was pretty stuck on the powerful flavors of bánh mì. On leaving, I wished I had ordered a second to take away.

Kuya’s menu has a lot more that will hold me back. For example, the Swede ($ 11), another of the six house sandwiches that anchors the menu, combines roast chicken with a house yellow curry sauce, red onions, banana, cilantro and smoked cheddar cheese. ‘maple.

The couple were initially planning to open a casual fine-dining restaurant, but the constraints of the pandemic have led them to opt for sandwiches instead. “Travis cooks for me so I know what kind of stuff he can make,” Patty said. “I knew if we made a sandwich shop he would just kill it.”

Some of the sandwiches are also available as rice bowls, along with a bowl of Korean beef bulgogi ($ 12) and occasional specials, like a Sicilian caponata the night we were there.

Upon opening Kuya, the couple offered giniling – a picadillo-like ground beef dish with fried carrots, peas and plantains – and bowls of chicken adobo rice. Both are classic Filipino dishes, Patty said. But it was a challenge for the two-person team to consistently produce them.

Now that they’ve found their rhythm and added a few more employees to their team, Travis and Patty plan to gradually incorporate new dishes on the plate, such as Southeast Asian-inspired noodles, into the dinner menu at the. over the next few months. They would also like to source more ingredients from local farmers.

“We need to buy a dishwasher first,” Patty joked.

In the meantime, diners looking for Filipino flavors outside of a sandwich or bowl of rice can opt for sides of tomato-cucumber salad ($ 4) or macaroni salad ($ 4.50). . Special and rotating soup options included a traditional bone marrow broth with cabbage, corn, carrots, and fish sauce; and arroz caldo, a popular rice porridge the Burns garnished with pork rinds, lime squeeze, green onions, hard-boiled eggs and crispy garlic.

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Patty and Travis Burns - SARAH PRIESTAP

  • Sarah Priestap
  • Patty and Travis Burns

The crispy garlic also appeared in a little snack that Patty brought to our table while we waited for our sandwiches: adobong mani, or garlic peanuts.

Food at Kuya’s takes time to prepare, and peanuts are something crunchy and salty that diners can munch on while they wait. In the Philippines, “You’ll see a lady selling them in a basket for really cheap, like just a snack,” Patty said. For the holidays, she spiced jars of these peanuts with Thai chili peppers. She also bakes a party cake called Unrivaled, similar to her sylvanas, cashew meringue cookies filled with buttercream and served cold.

The cake is gluten-free and many Kuya dishes are adaptable to dietary restrictions. The Swede, for example, can go vegan by replacing cauliflower with roast chicken and skipping the cheese. The rice bowl version of the Filipino bánh mì is gluten-free; it’s also the most traditional way to eat pork belly, said Patty.

The flexible menu and the warm welcome have earned the 9-month-old business a growing number of regulars. Outsiders, who descend Interstate 89, are drawn to the Filipino flavors hard to find at Kuya’s. In the Philippines, Patty noted, “You can call anyone kuyawhether it’s your family or a stranger. ”

The restaurant features work by local artists, both up and coming and established, and the Burns donate a portion of the art sales to local nonprofits and the high school. Their meet the performers events were a great success, said Patty.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming here,” she added. “But even in this small town, people crave culture, travel, something different.”


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