FORT WALTON BEACH – Hearing the name Sue’s Desserts & More, I pictured a quaint little café that served soups and salads, but with a focus on desserts. While Sue’s does serve all those things, it is not at all what its name suggests. There is a case filled with pretty desserts just inside the door. But the real focus of the restaurant is its Filipino cuisine.
The restaurant is a large room filled with plain tables and chairs. When we visited in the evening, the first thing I noticed was a karaoke set up. While the music was a bit on the loud side, happily the primary vocalist had a pleasant voice.
The restaurant was filled with families, and everyone seemed to know everyone else. It was a very homey feel, and we were treated as if we were one of the group.
There is an extensive menu that includes breakfast (which is served all day), sandwiches (from simple ham and cheese to shewarma), salads and desserts. It also features a couple of pages of Filipino items, from lumpia through dessert.
As with the name of the restaurant, the menu is not quite what it seems either. What we found was that breakfast and sandwiches can be ordered off the menu, but the rest of the offerings are found on the large buffet.
Our server told us which items they had (the selection varies), we told her what we wanted, and then she served our plates from the buffet and delivered them to the table. She also brought hot lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) around to the table as they came fresh from the kitchen. We were also welcome to return to the buffet for seconds or to try other things.
The buffet featured hot and cold items, including a large variety of vegetable and pasta salads. Vegetable salads included bitter melon, cucumber, spinach with pine nuts, and Greek salad.
Among the pasta salads was linguine with chicken, a tomato sauce-based spaghetti salad, and a Filipino macaroni salad that was slightly sweet from the addition of pineapple.
Among the hot items, my favorite was the chicken curry. It was the consistency of a stew and filled with tender shreds of chicken. The sauce was full of complex flavor with a rich texture.
I also enjoyed the fried rice. It was much lighter than most, fragrant with seasonings and had nice bits of crunch to add interest to the texture.
While I normally love anything with noodles, I was not as fond of the pancit bihon. Its flavor was good, but I think its texture did not benefit from the buffet table.
Skewers of barbecued pork were excellent. The meat was tender, had a sweet glaze, and nicely crisped bits of fat to add to the flavor. A beef afritada was also available on the buffet. Afritada is a tomato-based stew that exhibits the decided Spanish influence on Filipino cuisine. This hearty dish included tender chunks of beef, potatoes and carrots, and would be perfect on a cool fall evening.
There is a long list of Filipino desserts on the menu, including leche flan (custard), and brazo de Mercedes (custard-filled cake), both of which have their origins in Spain. But when I eat Filipino food, the one thing I have on my mind is halo halo, which translates as mix mix.
At Sue’s, the halo halo is served in a bowl, and consists of shaved ice, milk, ice cream, and sweet beans and fruit, including mung beans, jackfruit and sweet potato. It is colorful, and provides a sweet creamy treat that is lightened by the shaved ice.
There are also Filipino pastries filled with sweet mung bean paste, and a variety of cakes and other sweets.
Sue’s isn’t what I expected. It was much more. It is a no-frills environment that is family-friendly, and serves good Filipino food at incredible prices.