Lima beans at Mayan Cafe in Louisville are cult
Louisville can promote the warm brown whatever he wants. But those in the know understand that Louisville is TRUE Unofficial dish is Tok-Salt Lima Beans Mayan coffee.
Yes, other dishes have loyal followers – I’m looking at you, Morel coffee Farby and green chili wontons from Bristol Bar & Grill. But nothing quite as inspiring as lima beans. (I mean, some of my Airbnb guests have even written haikus dedicated to this delicious dish.)
Mayan Cafe chef and owner Bruce Ucán teaches a lesson at the library practical festival on how to prepare his legendary fava beans and brides have been known to stand at the buffet picking them up at their wedding.
One thing is for sure, they could never, ever remove this dish from their lineup, said general manager Anne Shadle, even if it was added to the menu by accident.
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It all started when “Bruce accidentally put them on the menu because he didn’t understand American culture,” Shadle said.
When Ucán, who moved here from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, was preparing the original menu for the Mayan Gypsy (predecessor of today’s Mayan Cafe) in 1997, he wanted to offer Tok-sel beans, Shadle said.
Named after the Yucatan bean roasting and seasoning method, the dish traditionally uses fava beans or Great Northern beans, she explains, but “Bruce said, ‘Let’s make them with beans from Lima because Americans love lima beans. “”
Wait – someone thought we really like lima beans?
Shadle said: “I was like ‘you couldn’t have been more wrong, you couldn’t have chosen a vegetable they liked less.’ People had just frozen and boiled them when they were kids and they were horrible.”
But Tok-sel Lima Beans were born and came as a side dish to the Gypsy, she said, “so people said ‘I guess I’m just gonna eat this thing,'” and it got defied their expectations.
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This singular experience is the secret to the rise of the Tok-sel lima bean, she said. Without even a hashtag at the time – let alone Yelp — the dish became the restaurant’s number one seller. It’s a modest $5 accessory that gets people every week, every event, every day to quit Shadle and go rhapsodic about beans.
So what’s the problem, anyway?
Yes, they are simply delicious. Diners call them “little bits of crack,” Shadle said, but it’s more than the alchemy of roasted and ground pumpkin seeds, searing heat, lime, salt and coconut oil. sesame. It was the conversion experience of trying them for the first time that etched the dish into Louisville’s collective consciousness.
Shadle studied psychology before learning anything about marketing and understood right away what was going on when diners first tried the beans.
People really don’t expect to like them, she says.
“They say, ‘I hate lima beans, I won’t eat them, I have all these bad childhood memories.’ They defend their right to hate the lima bean.
Mayan Cafe servers are therefore trained to offer the dish for free to hesitant customers, Shadle said. “The waiter says ‘these are different, but don’t take a financial risk on my word.'”
There’s a “free lima beans” button on the ordering system, Shadle said, so doubtful newcomers get an order on the house.
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After taking that first bite, they’re surprised, she says. And they take another one and that’s it. They are forever in the worship of Lima.
“This conversion experience creates a strong emotional memory around the experience,” she said. They become strong advocates of the lima bean and insist that their friends try them.
And so on. Now they are consuming 100 pounds of lima beans per week (about 300 orders) and 50 pounds of pumpkin seeds every 10 days.
“We put a freezer in my office three years ago so we could store extra lima beans here,” Shadle said.
Although the restaurant has long emphasized local and seasonal ingredients – as anyone who meets Ucán at the Farmer’s Market can attest – with a short lima bean growing season of around a month, it is one of the few items they source from commercial vendors (who compete for patronage, Shadle said).
In an emergency, she had to go to Kroger for supplies (their Fordhook variety is a good option, she says).
Once, six years ago, the kitchen ran out and one of her former neighbors still doesn’t want her to forget him, she said. It was “unacceptable”, he told her.
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Beans were only on the dinner menu originally, Shadle said, but that wasn’t acceptable either.
“We had been open for a few months at this location,” she said. “I didn’t realize they were a ‘thing’. This waiter who worked mostly for lunches said, “Anne, it stresses me out when people get upset when lima beans aren’t on the lunch menu. Can you just type them into the menu? »
“That was my first cue of, ‘oh, this is really something people are talking about,'” she said.
It clicked when Shadle went to a presentation by Emanual Rosen, author of “The Anatomy of Buzz. “He emphasized the power of word of mouth,” she said.
“Rather than saying, ‘I want my clients to talk about this,’ listen to what they’re talking about organically and push that,” he recalls.
So she took the advice to heart and started promoting lima beans. They offered them to each restaurant customer, took them to each tasting.
“No matter how bad our location was – we could be in the parking lot by the Kroger tent – at the end of the night we’d have a line around the corner of people saying ‘I heard talk about those crazy lima beans “.”
They may have reached the pinnacle of lima last year when a handful of lucky diners won free lima beans for a year. Shadle had Lima Bean Black Cards as an exclusive credit card designed for winners.
Does she or anyone else get tired of beans? Well, that’s not the point.
“I joke that I’m going to change my job title to lima bean pimp,” she said. “You have no idea how much I talk about lima beans.”
Tell it to Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at [email protected] and follow @danamac on Twitter.
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Tok-Salt Lima Beans
Makes 4 servings
- 1/2 pound fresh or frozen Fordhook lima beans
- 1 bunch of green onions
- 1/2 bunch of parsley
- Salt to taste
- Lime juice to taste
- 6 ounces ground and roasted pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
If using fresh beans, blanch them in boiling water for one minute, then rinse and pat dry. If using frozen beans, thaw them.
Chop the green onions and parsley, medium to fine. Put aside.
Roast the pumpkin seeds in the preheated oven, then grind them (medium to fine) in a food processor.
Place sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil starts to smoke, throw in the lima beans first. Fry them until golden brown and toasted.
Add all the other ingredients except the lime juice and sauté for another minute. Then add the lime juice and serve.
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