I was born in Philly, but I grew up in South Florida. I may have been weaned on cheesesteaks and hoagies, but when I learned about food, it was cubanos, lechon asado, and tostones.
So, like all other ex-pats, I am always in search of a cubano, with that perfect blend of crusty grilled bread, ham, roast pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. Cuban Corner in Rockville does fine in a pinch, as does Cubano's in Silver Spring and Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville.
Amateurs, all of them.
Mi Cuba has been open since January, and I'm sorry that I took this long to stop in.
The space is painted bright and cheery, which matches the staff - at least three of whom greeted us within our first minute in the door. And though I was ready to use my "menu Spanish", all of the staff were fully bi-lingual. Definitely seems like a family operation - though I didn't clarify, looks like "Dad" cooking in the back from "Mom's" recipes and "Grandma" helping out.
The menu has all of the Cuban standards - it's a small place, so it's not as extensive as the others mentioned above. With only two of us dining, we decided to stick with the classics to give the place a run.
Empanadas de Carne ($2.50) were a spectacular start. The turnovers were crispy in every bite but slightly chewy in the center, just the right ratio of a tangy shredded beef stuffing in the center, and unbelievably two of them on the plate for that price.
Papa Rellena con Pollo ($2.95) also had two of the larger-than-golf-ball appetizers on the plate. Crusty on the outside hiding pillow-soft mashed potatoes surrounding a flavorful center of shredded chicken and vegetables.
Lechon Asado ($9.95) was glorious - a heaping pile of roasted pork, onions and spices, served with a pile of tostones (deep fried plantains), a mound of white rice, and a side bowl of black beans.
And yes, there was a Cubano ($7.95). And it was gorgeous. And it was huge. And it was the best cubano I have had in many, many years. Most cubano sandwiches fall down in two places - they use a baguette or some crappy bread, and they use plain sliced roast pork. This bread was perfect - exactly as I remember from my years in Miami. And I think the roast pork was the same pork from the Lechon Asado.
Do the math - for $23 + tax/tip, two of us had an authentic Cuban lunch in the middle of the skyrocketing rent area of Columbia Heights - and we had enough leftovers for lunch for one the next day. They could have served only one empanada and papa rellena for that price, a third less food on the lechon plate, and a much smaller cubano, and at those prices, I still would have considered it a deal.
Run, don't walk, to Mi Cuba Cafe, sez I.
Two side notes:
- When I told the chef on our way out where I was from and what I thought of the food, she came very close to crying while thanking me.
- In the middle of our meal, someone came in for a takeout order by bike. Stupidly, he left it sitting against the parking meter in front of the store, not chained up. The chef saw someone grab it while the bike's owner was in the restroom, went tearing out of the restaurant to grab the bike back from the thief, and brought it around through the back door of the restaurant. But given this imgur post, that seems like par for the course for them.