I was just considering a series about great Wilmington-area chefs and restaurants that fly under the radar when I saw a Facebook post from one of them that reminded me why I continue to write about restaurants. Readers may think it’s because I like to eat — and, of course, I do — but what keeps me most interested in the beat are the special people I meet along the way. Chef Danny Keegan of San Juan Cafe is one of them.
Keegan is a fantastic cook and a super-nice guy, as evidenced by the menu special he announced last night: Traditional Filipino cuisine will be served starting this Thursday and continuing through Saturday, with 10 percent of sales donated to Red Cross aid efforts in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines.
“This disaster hits close to home for us here at San Juan Cafe,” Keegan said on Facebook. “Our bartender, Katrina, has over a dozen family members who live on the Filipino island of Leyte in a province just outside of Tacloban. Please come out and help us support those who are in desperate need of assistance at this difficult time.”
Keegan opened San Juan Cafe, 3314 Wrightsville Ave., near Independence Boulevard, in 2010. He’s a passionate cook who strives to produce authentic Latin American cuisine, including that of this native Puerto Rico.
Trained at Johnson and Wales late Charleston, S.C., campus and an alumnus of various Key West and Cape Fear kitchens, Keegan has a knack with getting tostones (fried green plantains) just right, meaning crisp and light, and then crowning them with unexpected toppings, my favorite being caviar and cilantro-lime cream.
Duck two ways — tender confit and seared breast — arrives with caramelized onion demi-glace with soft arepas.
Knowing Keegan’s skill and heart, I can’t wait to see what he does with Filipino cuisine this week. Hope to see you there.