At Cocina Latin American Fusion, sweet flavors tickle the tongue just as often as fiery ones cause it to tingle. Fruit-based marinades flavor several meats, such as grilled jumbo shrimp in house lime sauce, a guava barbecue-glazed pork chop, and mango chicken, which is prepared by finding and cracking open a perfectly egg-shaped mango. The menu derives its dishes from several countries—paella entrees evoke the tastes of Spain, for example, whereas a chili-dusted sirloin steak boasts a Cuban mojo sauce. Regardless of their origins, each seafood, chicken, and beef specialty pairs well with sides of sweet plantains. And on Sundays, patrons can intersperse bites of brunch plates with chilled sips of Morisonado, a mix of orange juice, milk, and cinnamon.
The live entertainment on weekends mirrors the diversity of the restaurant's cuisine. On Fridays, Latin jazz lilts through the space. Saturdays feature piano performances, and guitarists take the stage on Sundays to strum Spanish tunes.
Havana-Jax Café in the Arlington section of Jacksonville is an authentic Cuban restaurant, where the staff speaks fluent English and Spanish and caters to both regulars and newcomers looking for the delicious Cuban food. With ochre walls, jade and burgundy tablecloths and large booths, Havana-Jax is as colorful to look at as the menu is to eat. A large center bar keeps things lively, while dishes like ropa vieja, paella and palomilla steak – a marinated and seared Angus steak, grilled with onions – draw in the hungry set. Simpler desserts include flan, rice pudding and egg custard, making for a well-rounded meal that’s popular with the local neighborhood, while still drawing visitors looking to enjoy the long-time staff and quality food.
In the midst of an asphalt desert lies an oasis surrounded by palm trees. Just above them, Puerto Plata Restaurant's terra-cotta-colored roof peeks out, beckoning the hungry to sate themselves with the restaurant's homemade Dominican fare. Traditional dishes, such as arroz con gandules, support plates of pollo guisado, a hearty chicken stew, and chillo frito, fried red snapper.
Hamburger Mary flipped her first burger in 1972 in San Francisco’s SOMA district. From her humble origins as the lovably eccentric icon for a late-night beer-and-burger joint, she has now crisscrossed the nation with her brand of family dining, which welcomes all open-minded people and focuses on members of the LGBT community. With cleverly mismatched dinnerware, diners dig into a menu rooted in Angus-beef burgers such as the Buffy the Burger Slayer or the 1-pound Proud Mary. Bold colors splash the walls, and colorful collages and artwork frame a fun, quirky space to encourage diners to get out of their comfort zone and finally attempt to bench-press their family members.
Music ricochets off the walls as a live band jams out on Burro Bar’s stage. The bar swells with noise as the music from the band mingles with the socializing guests sipping craft beers from breweries such as Bold City Brewery, Intuition Ale Works, and Green Room Brewing. A calendar of events keeps a rotating list of musical guests on the roster, averaging about four shows a week.
Chef Pedro Ramirez can often be seen hovering over a crackling spit, tending to the pig that roasts over its flame in the open air. When the bounty is finished cooking, Ramirez whips it up into pork sandwiches and platters—a Ramirez Restaurant specialty for nearly two decades. A retired US Navy Chief, Ramirez now leads his kitchen staff as they craft fresh ingredients into authentic Cuban, Mexican, and Puerto Rican dishes infused with homemade spices akin to the ones used by Ramirez's ancestors from Santo Domingo. In the dining room, designed in the style of a beach bungalow, Latin paintings hang over tables topped with homemade sangria and margaritas, and an outdoor patio supports the tropical atmosphere with flags and strands of lights as powerful as a billionth of a sun.