It's been nearly two decades since Hard Grove Cafe opened, and in that time, the Cuban-themed restaurant has evolved into a place where locals gather to see art exhibits and dance to live music. Of course, the biggest draw is still the authentic Cuban cuisine. Diners can dig into seafood mofongo—roasted chicken glazed with guava-infused barbecue sauce—and tangy ropa vieja, amid other exotic dishes. Vegetarian-friendly alternatives are available, along with sandwiches and burgers for diners who are afraid to use forks. Bartenders whip up refreshing mojitos and cosmos for accompaniment. Sundays bring an extensive brunch with optional bottomless bloody marys and mimosas.
Bolts of sheer fabric dangle from the ceiling of Havana Dulce's dining room, filtering the soft lighting before it hits the burnt-orange walls and mimics the sight of a Caribbean sunset. Meanwhile, the aromas of fried plantains, lemon-marinated ceviche, and roast pork drift throughout the space and tempt diners with their combinations of sweet and savory flavors.
The nightlife at Havana Dulce revolves around the bar's refreshing cocktails and fruit-filled sangria, as well as the spirited dance floor. To help to keep feet stepping and hips swaying, the restaurant features live shows throughout the week, including DJ sets, band performances, and staged readings of colonial Virginia's first tax code.
The chefs at Mojito Grill immerse the intimate dining area with the savory scents of classic Cuban fare. Employing a decades-old cooking method, they use traditional la caja china roasting boxes to prepare hearty cuts of pork, steak, poultry, and fish. These special ovens heat to extreme temperatures, but keep the flames from ever touching the succulent slabs. This seals in flavor and juices while creating a crispy exterior. Marinated churrasco skirt steak, grilled wild salmon in a guava glaze, and roasted pork highlight the menu alongside traditional Cuban sandwiches. Delectable flavors can be relished with a Cuban coffee and bookended by a Cuban flan.
Named after a classic Cuban love song, Guantanamera celebrates the culture and traditions of Old Havana, dishing up authentic cuisine, complimentary hand-rolled cigars, and live music. Homemade dishes such as pressed roast-pork sandwiches and yellow rice with shrimp share menu real estate with elegant entrees of braised oxtails with mashed plantains. Bartenders sweeten mojitos with sugar cane or prolonged exposure to greeting cards, and they pour more than 30 types of aged rum sourced from South America and the Caribbean.
On Friday and Saturday nights, cigar expert Juan de la Cruz enlists traditional tools to hand-roll Dominican tobacco inside thick, complimentary cigars, and patrons can hone their salsa, rumba, and cha-cha moves to live music Tuesday–Sunday at around 9 p.m. Inside the eatery, exposed-brick walls encroach on vibrant, hand-painted murals depicting idyllic Cuban scenes, such as dancers, musicians, and city streets. A parade of candles casts a gentle glow upon crisp white tablecloths, and rattan-covered ceiling fans make balloons lament their helium innards.
San Juan Express aims to take taste buds on a tour of Puerto Rico's diverse flavorscape. The menu delivers authentic cuisine from around the famous island—from its well-trod beaches to its rural tropical jungles. Servers bustle about behind the counter, ladling out portions of oxtail stew, juicy slices of beefsteak, slow-roasted garlic pork, and crispy fried shrimp from a row of freshly made dishes. They also whip up a variety of traditional mofongos, topping mashed plantains with shrimp and pork. For dessert, the staffers dole out custard flan and moist tres leches cake.
The Sandbar's cooks help bring a tropical atmosphere to their landlocked lounge with signature dishes that incorporate Caribbean flavors. Their crab cakes arrive with a citrusy side of key-lime rémoulade and the corn-tortilla nachos get loaded with spicy tuna tartare, fresh avocado, and a sweet soy glaze. In addition to the beachside eats, cooks also smoke pulled pork over apple-wood chips and build sandwiches around hamburger patties, Louisiana-style fried catfish, or jerk chicken breast shaped like the Sandwich Islands. Behind a full bar, staff members mix signature margaritas and mojitos for patrons to nurse as they enjoy open mics, live DJ sets, and karaoke nights scheduled throughout the week.