At Mojito Cuban Cuisine, chefs parade platters of Caribbean classics and tropical cocktails through a rustic, airy lounge. At the rough-hewn wooden bar, bartenders shake up the eatery’s namesake cocktail, a mojito crafted from a recipe indigenous to Havana’s famed La Bodeguita del Medio. Brick walls, exposed ceiling beams and faded blue hues lend Mojito a vibe that New York magazine describes as “scenester-friendly and warmly inviting.”
Citing its solar panels, bike-powered blender, and rainwater collection system, The New York Times dubs Habana Outpost “a sort of Rube Goldberg experiment for the hemp-and-composting set.” However, Habana Outpost is not a science fair project—it’s an eco-friendly restaurant, best known for its crisp and succulent Cuban sandwich. The toasted baguette stuffed with pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickle was named one of New York’s top sandwiches by Refinery 29, but it’s not the only reason diners flock to the colorful eatery. Other house specialties, such as grilled corn with cotija cheese and chili powder or fried chicken and waffles on a stick, add to the menu’s slate of eclectic, exotic, and eco-friendly dishes. Just by eating there, diners get a taste of the green lifestyle as they sit on recycled furniture, sip from plastic cups made from corn, and recycle and compost their leftovers.
Stepping into La Gloria, visitors suddenly find themselves immersed in a dramatic, red and orange lounge that seems to glow beneath its high ceilings. Plush leather seating, exposed brick walls, and ornate wood trim impresses eyes with design that's as sumptuous as the menu's flavorful entrees. Cuban and Dominican fare comprise the chefs' primary influences, with ceviche, grilled steak with yucca fries, and saffron paella satisfying taste buds, the way a replacing a basketball hoop with a hula hoop would satisfy Michael Jordan.
Like the Brazilian bands that play there on weekends, almost every dish at Sitio Samba & Sabor reflects Latin flair. Chefs craft housemade ceviche, wrap meats in strips of yucca, or grill up Cuban sandwiches. House specialties range from Peruvian-inspired steamed fish stew to ropa vieja, shredded beef stewed in a spice-heavy sauce. Meals wrap up with desserts such as banana flambé or Brazilian pudding piped in from remote pudding pools in the Amazon.
From crisp croquetas de jamon to beef-filled empanaditas, the Cuban-style tapas at Agozar Restaurant and Lounge come flavored with the same rich, Caribbean spices that fill the childhood memories of its co-owners, siblings Gerardo Perez and Diana Mastrodimos.
?We?re from a Cuban family, [with] a Cuban grandma," Perez said. "We lived in Miami for some time, so we had traditional Cuban food almost every day. Our dad also worked in Cuban restaurants in NYC, like Victor?s Cafe, so we had that upbringing."
But in recent years, the brother-and-sister team has expanded their menu beyond the classics they remember from childhood. Today, they also serve "Nuevo-Cubano" dishes that draw on influences from Spain, Mexico, and even China, reflecting the full cultural diversity of modern Cuban cuisine.
Dishes to Discover
Those familiar with Cuban cuisine will easily recognize classic dishes at Agozar, including pressed cubaniche sandwiches, shredded ropa vieja, and citrus-marinated lechon. But there are dishes here that may surprise even the most seasoned palate. A few highlights:
Ginger-glazed "Chino-Cubano" salmon with vegetable fried rice
In the Press
* New York Magazine recommends the tapas-like small plates, which are "vibrant with spices and emboldened by fresh ingredients." * The New York Times notes the spot's "lengthy list of flavored mojitos," which draw in muddled-drink enthusiasts and also people who love to read lengthy lists.
The sound of mojitos and caipirinhas clinking fades into the rhythm of salsa and merengue tunes at Havana Alma de Cuba every night. At the heart of the restaurant, the kitchen prepares a rich spread of Cuban, Latin, and Spanish dishes rated very good to excellent by Zagat and recommended by New York Magazine. Chef Gerardo Tlapa marinates fresh fish in citrus juices to create daily ceviche specials and prepares traditional entrees by braising shredded skirt steak in tomato and covering pork chops with a rich chorizo-tomatillo sauce. Flickering votive candles and a wall-size mural of Cuban streets and musicians playing conga drums create a lively atmosphere in the dining room. Beyond the bustle inside sits an outdoor patio with seating for private events including wedding rehearsals and staring contests.
Live music from Son, Mambo and Rumba serenades guests Thursday–Saturday nights. Tuesday and Wednesday nights bring a different sort of show. Special guest Jose Martinez crafts complimentary cigars for each diner, expertly rolling each one before their eyes. Martinez draws on 30 years of experience that began with his training in the Dominican Republic and continues in his current position as a cigar maker at La Rosa Cubana, which Ciagar Aficionado calls "the old grand dame of New York's mini cigar factories."