With its ever-changing coordinates and conspicuous absence from the Beach Boys' "Kokomo," Cuba is one of the more difficult-to-locate Caribbean nations. Dig into this enigma with a fork, knife, and today's Groupon: for $15, you get $30 worth of Cuban fare at Cafe Piquet in Bellaire.
Named the Best Cuban Restaurant in 2009 by the Houston Press, Cafe Piquet creolizes a menu of classic, authentic Cuban cuisine with a contemporary cast of flavorful influences. Test out the tropical waters with island-influenced appetizers such as fufu de platano, a savory paste of green plantains and childhood ambitions in garlic sauce ($8.95) or the yuca fritas, a hearty helping of fried yucca tubers ($4.50). Exquisite Cuban entrees include the pechuga de pollo a la plancha, a self-conscious grilled chicken breast wearing a savory shawl of grilled onions, backed up by fried ripe plantains and an ebony-and-ivory duet of rice and beans ($10.50). Try the classic cubano sandwich, which stacks swiss cheese, ham, and pork into a hunger-thwarting package ($5.95), or stake your claim on the pan con bistec ($7.50).
Though the adobe walls recall a certain Tex-Mex flair, Cafe Piquet's façade contrasts color and texture, extending to the white colonial-style patio that's reminiscent of Cuban architecture. Having established Cafe Piquet on a familial foundation, the restaurant aims to remain the indispensable pickle on the Houston sandwich scene.
Though the imperial Doric columns inside Cafe Piquet aren't indicative of the cuisine's origins, the pictures and artifacts on the walls—which range from movie-star portraits to framed bills of currency—all pay homage to Cuba. The authentic decor echoes the traditional recipes in the family-owned kitchen. There, chefs layer swiss cheese, ham, pork, mustard, and pickles onto medianoche sandwiches that helped the restaurant win the 2009 Houston Press award for Best Cuban Restaurant. The paper deemed the sandwiches "easily the best in the city," and commented on the menu’s knack for drawing crowds of native Cubans with its recipes.
Those recipes include plates of grilled red snapper, pork chops, and sirloin steak that arrive with sides of plantains and yucca, imbued with flavor from garlic and creole sauces. After devouring the dishes, full visitors who have become sleepy can conclude meals with cups of cuban coffee.