The azure-blue sea and palm-tree-lined beach on El Nuevo Frutilandia's rustic painted sign hint at the Caribbean cuisine served inside. A modest menu highlights multiple courses of Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes, including meatless options such as mofongo vegetariano, a classic dish of fried plantains smashed together with olive oil and garlic. Pork is featured throughout the menu, whether roasted and sliced alongside ham and cheese in the Cuban sandwich, or fried as chops with a spritz of lemon and crown of onions.
Five Things to Know About Cha Cha Cha
When coming up with a concept for their restaurant, the founders of Cha Cha Cha—one born in Puerto Rico, the other a Cuban resident for 20 years—met in the middle. They blended the cuisines from their homelands into one eclectic spread and opened the first Cha Cha Cha in upper Haight in 1986. Today, Cha Cha Cha continues to dish out Latin and Caribbean tapas at that original location, as well as at an additional spot on Mission Street. Read on to learn more about these popular and festive eateries:
The Mission St. location has a lot of history. Originally, this building was an Irish dive bar established before Prohibition. Wanting to respect that, Cha Cha Cha decided to adopt the “Original McCarthy” as part of its name.
Tapas anchor the menu. The lineup of these small, sharable plates includes the popular cajun shrimp sauteed in a spicy cream sauce and fried patanos maduros, as well as tropical sweet bananas with black beans and sour cream.
Raciones are essentially entrees. Unlike tapas, these larger dishes are usually ordered all at once and make up an entire meal experience. Cha Cha Cha’s line up raciones include the fan-favorite jerk chicken, which features marinated chicken thighs baked with habanero peppers, raisins, garlic, and tomatoes.
Reservations aren’t accepted at the Haight location. That being said,, a member of your group can come and put the group’s name on the waiting list. Otherwise, everyone can just hang out by the bar until a table is ready. Inside tip: you can also dine at the bar, just be sure to mention it to the bartender.
It’s a good idea to save room for drinks. The sangria and mojitos are must-haves.
Latin Grill Express: A User’s Guide
Tapas-Style Dishes | Cuban-Inspired Classics | Latin American Bites | Live Music | Breakfast & Brunch
Appetizer: empanadas stuffed with ground pork in a tomato-onion sauce
Cuban Dish: roasted pork covered in cumin-citrus sauce and paired with bitter orange-marinated onions
Latin American Dish: slow-roasted and grilled pork ribs slathered in housemade guava-chipotle barbecue sauce
Dessert: sweet fried plantains with queso fresco
When to Go: Saturday for brunch, when musicians play live tunes
Empanada: half-moon-shaped pastry stuffed with savory ingredients, such as meats and veggies; most Latin or Latin-inspired cuisines have some form of the dish.
Tostones: fried slices of unripe plantain; a common side dish in Latin America.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Peruse the works of Chagall to contemporary artists displayed at Franklin Bowles Galleries.
After: Unleash your inner oenophile in the tasting room at Wattle Creek Winery.
A true taste of the world, delicious Cuban fare can be found at Paladar Cafe Cubano.
Plan to indulge a bit at Paladar Cafe Cubano, though, because they don't offer any low-fat fare.
Find the perfect vintage to complement your meal — Paladar Cafe Cubano offers a fine selection of wines, beers, and beyond.
Open air seating is ready for diners at Paladar Cafe Cubano when the weather is warm.
Ideal for birthday parties or other large get-togethers, Paladar Cafe Cubano has all the room you'll need to be comfortable.
Be sure to make reservations so you can get seated right away.
Paladar Cafe Cubano tosses the jacket-and-tie dress code convention in favor of a more casual dining experience.
Throwing a big party? Count on Paladar Cafe Cubano to provide top-notch catering with the same great dishes you love.
If you need to get somewhere fast, the restaurant also serves up grub to go.
Drivers can leave their vehicles in the many street-side spaces. Or, for busier nights, garage parking is also nearby.
The average check at Paladar Cafe Cubano will stay below $30 per person, so it's a relatively affordable option.
El Pollo Supremo satisfies all appetites with its eclectic menu of Latin American fare. The bill of fare blends Cuban congri––beans and rice–– fried plantains, and Mexican burritos and tortas with a meal that deliciously unites all climes and cultures: charbroiled chicken, served with tortillas and homemade sauce.
Havana: A User’s Guide
California-Cuban Cuisine | Specialty Mojitos | Tapas
Tapas: twice-fried plantains with pineapple salsa, and grilled shrimp with cilantro-lime sauce
Soup: chicken tortilla with queso fresco and avocado
Entree: plantain-crusted pacific cod with tomatillo-avocado salsa, cuban corn, and sofrito rice
Mojito: Cruzan rum, watermelon puree, mint, sugar, lime juice, and a splash of soda
Where to Sit: For a private event of up to 45 guests, reserve “Little Havana,” the private dining room, which is available for lunch or dinner parties.
When to Go: Mondays for half-priced mojitos by the glass or pitcher.
Havana also caters events that can range from 6 guests to more than 300.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Wander through 3,500 square feet of work by historic, modern, and contemporary artists at Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Drive)
After: Island hop from Cuba to Hawaii by heading to Tiki Tom’s (1535 Olympic Boulevard) for a tropical-style nightcap.