Sometimes it’s difficult to find restaurants that leaves carnivores and herbivores feeling equally satisfied. Sure, there are non-meat options at barbecue restaurants, but corn bread hardly counts as a full meal. And though I’m a vegetarian, I understand the need to eat lamb while getting Indian food. Next time you’re up against an opposing dietary preference about where to eat, end the fighting and go to Cubana Cafe. Even if there isn’t a debate involved beforehand, you should go to Cubana Cafe.
For anyone unfamiliar with Cuban cuisine, it’s similar to a lot of Latin American countries. There’s a lot of rice, beans, tomatoes and peppers, but there’s a whole lot more yucca, plantains, mangoes and pineapple. Cubana Cafe uses ingredients you’re familiar with, but each dish has flavors working together in a magical new way. There’s a hanger steak sandwich with avocado, chicken with mango citrus salsa, pulled pork with plantains, mashed potatoes stuffed with beef, chilies stuffed with shrimp, elote, coconut shrimp…even a dish as simple as saffron rice with vegetables is ten times better than any other version you’ve eaten before. Before eating there, I was really apprehensive about a sandwich with refried beans, salsa, and cheese, but I now want to eat it everyday. When you sit down, you get a bowl of fried plantain chips covered in mango and green salsas. (I have no idea what’s in the green salsa because I ate it too fast to think about its ingredients). Not only do the free snacks make you feel warm and fuzzy, the wait staff is super friendly and attentive. They say hello as soon as you walk in, and you’ll never have to ask for more water. And when you get take out, they slip in a little, tiny brownie.
272 Smith St. btw Degraw and Sackett Sts.
[Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn]