Authentic dishes with neighborhood hospitality – Review of Cuba

By ERIN PALISIN

222 Thompson St. (between West 3rd St. and Bleecker St.)
Greenwich Village
212-420-7878 / cubanyc.com

Photo by Erin Palisin

Looking for authentic Cuban food, authentic live music, authentic service and even authentic hand-rolled cigars? No need to dust off your passport and travel out of the country. Just walk down to Cuba, a neighborhood favorite located on Thompson Street in historic Greenwich Village. In a city that boasts tens of thousands of restaurants, sometimes choosing where to have your next meal can be quite a challenge. Although going to a celebrity chef’s local joint can be a culinary treat, sometimes your best overall experience can be found in a small, neighborhood hangout where attention to detail, creating a welcoming ambiance and having fun are key!

Rabo Encendido - Photo by Erin Palisin

Before you even walk in the doors of Cuba, you are greeted by an always smiling man busy at work in the front window crafting fresh, hand-rolled Cuban cigars (see picture below). This attention to detail and small added touch are evidence of the type of experience and service that keeps local New Yorkers coming back for more.  Once you make it inside, pay attention to the Latin band or singer who is likely set up in the back corner entertaining restaurant patrons with lively Cuban music to dine to. (the music can be loud, so do not expect to have a very quiet meal)

And of course, after you take in all the initial sensory delights, there is food and drinks to be had! Start off with a house specialty mojito that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the difficult decision of what to order. If dining with a group, a fun option is to order a variety of entradas (appetizers) and guarniciones (side dishes) to sample with the table as your meal. The empanadas (beef, chicken or spinach with manchego cheese), ceviche, and maduros (fried sweet plantains) are personal favorites. Adding an order of traditional moros (black beans mixed with perfectly cooked white rice) is always a good choice. If a tapas style meal is not what you are in the mood for, Cuba offers a wide variety of authentic entrees. Following the recommendations of our server, our table ordered the traditional Vaca Frita and Rabo Encendido; both hearty, well seasoned dishes served piping hot in a portion that could easily feed two people. Vaca Frita consists of a pan fried skirt steak that is shredded and marinated in a light but flavorful garlic, lime and onion sauce. The Rabo Encendido (pictured above), or braised oxtail, is served on the bone with a side of mashed sweet plaintains and moros in a very sweet, tomato based sauce.

Although Monday nights are often spent on the couch recovering from the weekend and preparing for the work week ahead, make sure to save some energy for a Monday night out at Cuba to enjoy one of the city’s best happy hour specials.  Head down to Hemmingway’s Hideaway Room located on the lower level for $5 drinks (including house specialty Mojitos) and $5 appetizers. Or if you are looking for a unique place to host your next party, Cuba also organizes special events offered in a private room.

Perfect for impressing your next date or your group of friends, Cuba serves as an overall memorable experience from the moment you walk in to your sure to be satisfied departure.
There are plans for the venue to host free indie rock concerts, as well as a few ticketed events, throughout the summer making the Beekman Beer Garden a definite hot spot this summer.

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