Mojito Cafe's kitchen erupts in energy as chefs sizzle steaks, grill fish, and blanket chicken in cheese to fill a vivacious menu of Cuban cuisine. The Mojito Sensation platter's skirt steak, baby churrasco, chicken filet, and shrimp ($18.99) lets dates stage fork-tine battles over a shared plate, and a Cuban sandwich's grilled cuban bread firmly grasps a pile of ham, swiss cheese, and sliced roast pork for easy plate-to-mouth travel ($7.99). On the seafood menu, grilled fish filet and a small school of shrimp perfect their backstroke in a garlic, wine, and parsley cream pool ($17.99). Diners can challenge the chicken milanesa plate to a game of hide-and-seek, as breaded chicken filet stealthily hides under a spanish marinade and blanket of gooey mozzarella cheese ($11.99).
With churrasco steaks, grilled red-snapper fillets, and shredded flank steaks rubbed with Cuban spices, it's hard to tell which dish earned Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Grill the tile of Best Cuban fare in 2010 and 2011 from the readers of Creative Loafing Atlanta. It could have been owner Rey Regalado’s recipe for pork marinade passed on from his father. Brought to America in a harrowing tale of escape from oppression, the signature sauce now trickles beneath layers of smoked pork, ham, swiss cheese, and dill pickles on the cuban sandwich or traditional masitas de puerco made with tender cubed pork. Selecting from a stash of family recipes, chefs fill plates with bold flavors and cap meals with such sweet treats as coconut flan and rice pudding. As the sun falls out of the sky on Fridays and Saturdays, live salsa music populates the dining room with toe-tapping beats and digestion-aiding rhythms.
At Havana South Restaurant and Bar, a conga line of authentic Cuban entrees parades out of the kitchen, transporting diners to the Caribbean with dishes such as picadillo a la Cubana and ropa vieja in criolle sauce. The chef draws on his culinary experience to populate the menu with true Cuban cuisine.
Meanwhile, drink enthusiasts can marvel at servers using guava, mango, and passion fruit to brew up refreshing batches of house-made mojitos. The tropical flavor carries over to the eatery's decor as well. A life-size painting of palm trees and domino players on the beach may fool diners into thinking that they're dining on the coast, whereas crimson-hued walls compliment heated salsa nights that are speckled throughout the eatery’s event schedule. Spanish music constantly pours from the speakers, inspiring guests to get up and dance, a practice encouraged by the staff.
Wafting aromas of sizzling seafood usher diners into Mambo Jambo's colorful and lively dining room. Kick off an evening of harmonized chewing with an appetizing goat-cheese salad, an emerald ensemble of baby lettuce and romaine quenched with a flavorful ambrosia of key-lime vinaigrette and balsamic dressing and topped with tumbling boulders of honey-roasted walnuts and crumbled goat cheese. After patrons have fully plundered herbaceous platters, a member of Mambo Jambo's friendly wait staff interrupts dialogues of gratuitous lip-smacking with a main course of paella de mariscos. Through the paella's copious haystack of saffron-infused rice, diners can dig for a plethora of seafaring savories, eliciting forkfuls of chewy calamari and disrupting a group of shrimp, scallops, and clams as it drafts a position on how central nervous systems are overrated. With today's second option, diners can assuage digestion with a sweet glass of sangria or a minty mojito.
Helmed by Cuban-born owner Elizardo Sanz, Palomilla's House prepares an extensive menu of authentic Cuban dishes. The signature house palomilla delivers Cuban culinary tradition in the form of a seasoned tenderloin steak ($15.95). A plethora of oceanic fare includes shrimp ($14.95) sautéed in your choice of flavor baths, including a specialty creole sauce or a symphony of olive oil, garlic, wine, and bell peppers. Chefs dedicated to the art of Cuban cooking lovingly fry a whole red snapper before dressing it in rice, beans, and plantains and sending it off to waiting tables ($17.95). Poultry options include the chicken milanesa—a breaded and fried filet draped with ham, melted mozzarella, and marinara sauce ($13.95).
Chef Hector Santiago not only sports a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, he was also a contestant on Bravo's Top Chef Las Vegas. A Puerto Rico native, Santiago inflects the traditional share plate with Latin American and contemporary American accents.