Reviewer Tricia Childress of Creative Loafing is rooting for the success of Las Palmas Restaurant. “Why do I want Las Palmas to stick? I could say culinary diversity is essential and we all benefit from this quirky, melting pot, Colombian-Cuban, simple and straightforward concept,” she muses. “My palate, though, would say their Cuban sandwich rocks.” After purchasing this primarily Colombian eatery, Cuba native George Escobar decided to draw diners in with familiar Colombian steaks and sauces while shaking things up with rich Cuban dishes of pork and plantains. The bilingual staff doles out ceviche and pork frittatas amid faux shutters and decorative cigars in the 45-seat eatery as two overhead TVs showcase soccer matches or broadcast cryptic clues about where to find the legendary gold-stuffed empanada.
Owner Lazaro Montoto maintains a healthy diet, and doesn't believe in sacrificing flavor to do so. That's why he opened Tropical Grille as an alternative to the nation’s preponderance of greasy fast-food dives. Natural light pours from wall-length windows onto his steaming grill, where the smell of sizzling chicken and steamed veggies mingle with the aromatic release of Lazaro's flavor-packed spice rubs. He puts those blends to good use; in addition to spicing up the grill, they also infuse his signature pork, which marinates for 12 hours before taking a trip to the slow-roaster for inclusion in thick sandwiches and hearty wraps.
At Mambo Grill & Tapas, precise preparation is just as essential to the bar's mojitos as it is to the kitchen's slow-cooked pork. The staff rejects premade sour mix in favor of their own tangy formula, and squeezes the lime juice onsite instead of simply shopping for lemonade and dyeing it green. The resulting citrusy sips pair well with the venue's Cuban entrees. From plantains stuffed with picadillo—ground beef, veggies, and potatoes cooked in housemade tomato sauce—to hand-cut beef fillets and pan-seared salmon, these dishes display a mastery of the balance between spice and sauce.
In 12 hours, Mad Cuban Cafe can dole out a day’s worth of Cuban-style dishes or slow roast a single batch of its signature pork. This pork pops up in all kinds of items, from the Mad Roasted Pork—crafted with homemade mojito marinade—to the Cuban sandwich—with smoked ham, Swiss, pickles, and mustard—to empanadas, a savory Cuban take on the turnover. The café cooks up other meats, too, grilling thin-sliced top round steak and pan-searing chicken breast until it's ready to take its place in a sandwich stuffed with onions and potato sticks. To add a sweet finish, the menu includes desserts such as flan and tres leches cake topped with a single cherry.
The chefs at the newly opened Grape Leaf cook up hearty Mediterranean cuisine that spans Middle Eastern to Greek specialties. They cook up a variety of sandwiches, appetizers, and entrees that include stuffed grape leaves, rack of lamb, and zesty beef shawarma. On select nights, belly dancers spin circles around the dining room as diners nibble at falafel and baklava.
Havana Comina Latina's servers dish out colorfully plated meals crafted from all-natural meats, seasonal produce, organic breads, and house-made sauces. Rev up human food processors with a starter of arepas con queso--two corn patties drizzled in queso blanco--or high-five taste buds with lime-infused tilapia and shrimp swimming in tomato and red onion ceviche. Diners may send muffled radio transmissions from a deep-fried coconut wrap enclosed around marinated pork and mango salsa or slice knives through a red-wine peppered steak, eight ounces of beef tenderloin rubbed with chimichurri sauce and cracked peppercorn on a bed of potatoes and peppers.