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Cuba Libre, A Philadelphia-Based Chain Comes To DC


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Just got an email that this restaurant is opening up in DC on September 17th. Anyone been to any of their other locations, Orlando or Atlantic City? What did you think? The press release on it sounds good. I miss me some Nuevo Latino Cuban, I hope they live up to their hype.

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I've been to the Philadelphia location many, many times since it first opened. It used to be great and went downhill to merely good on my most recent visits. The mojitos have gotten to be very sweet -- too sweet for my taste. I've always been a fan of the pressed bread they serve, as well as the black bean hummus, served with plantain chips and the Ropa Vieja. It was always a fun place to go, though, with a crowded bar scene. I'm definitely going to check it out after it opens. I hope its food is as good as the Philly location's was when it opened.

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They have a web page but it sheds no light on their opening date other than it's supposed to be this month -- and we're running out of days...

They're opening October 1st. From the 1st to the 7th, the menu will be offered at 50% off. From the 8th to the 13th, the menu will be 25% off. They're taking phone reservations now at (202) 408-1600, and online reservations are supposed to start Saturday. I would imagine spots for the first week especially will go fast.

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I agree with a few points already made about Cuba Libre. The dixie cup sized cocktails are an embarassment. If I am going to pay $11 for a mixed drink, I think that it is appropriate to have a good amount of liquor in it and have some size to the glass, my caipirinha had neither. This is one of those times that I hate the fact that I do not drink beer, they can't water beer down and you know what size the bottle is going to be. I also didn't care for the decor. I feel that it is contrived, which many will enjoy, but I am not one of those people.

With that being said, everything else about Cuba Libre was quite good. Our service, especially at the bar, was very knowledgable and friendly. I liked everything that we ate, especially the pulled pork empanada and the arepa. I appreciate the emphasis on small plates, a group could really do some damage on the menu and please everyone that was at the table, good variety and relatively good portions for the price. We also had a few rum tastings which I enjoyed a great deal, I am glad that they have this as an option, even though I know nothing about rum, Cost for two diners was $160 with tax and tip, but that was at least 50% alcohol.

There were plenty of things on the menu that looked good that I didn't try, so I would go back, but I would be careful with my drink ordering.

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so we went there last night for drinks/snacks. Highly recommend the Hemingway Martini. Pyrate Martini is good but sweet. Classic Martini is good but typical - nothing exciting. We ordered on appetizer - a ceviche; camarones with red pepper sauce. It was good, but the shrimp were overcooked and the portion was very small for $10.

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Very much a chain restaurant -- move em in, move em out and separate em from their cash quickly. The drinks started the meal on a down note. The classic mojito was overly-sweet and had almost no alcohol. My wife's pomogranite mojito tasted good, but also suffered from a lack of rum. You can picture hoards of 20-somethings downing three of these over a 90 minutes meal at $10-12 a pop. The food itself was not terrible, but very bland -- Cuban food for suburban American tastes. Ropa vieja had no bite at all -- a good sized portion but tasteless. My wife's "suntanned salmon" was better, but nothing to write home about. Still looking for a worthy successor to Omega.

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I'm with Psinderbrand, I thought this place was really cheesy, overpriced, and nothing to write home about. The ham and cheese croquettes were really bad and the bean soup tasted like someone emptied a can of black beans into a bowl and put a piece off bread on top. Not sure how you get off calling that "soup". Mojitos would be better termed "kiddie juice", as no alcohol flavor could be discerned through all of that sugar.

Never been to the one in Philly, so I can't speak to that, but the one on 9th and H should be avoided as you have at least 8 better options within a 3 block radius.

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Most posts are about dinner, right? What options to order or avoid for lunch? Am lunching here on Wednesday with coworkers. Thanks!

It is kind of weird answering your own question on the Board, and I guess it matches the experience I had for lunch. I am writing just to share a prospective and in no way am seeking some sort of redemption by posting this. I am just befuddled by my experience today.

Weird fact number 1: OT and their system showed no reservations available at 12noon, but were available at 11:30am, so that was what we booked. When we got there, 5 other tables showed up at the same time, but at 12noon, I can't recall too many other tables added. The main weird point was that the hours showed them opening at 11am, but there were not any other tables served/seated by 11:30am until all this cluster occurred, plus the hostesses (all 3 of them) weren't ready for us. They were still sorting out stuff. It took them another good 5 minutes to get to people and out of order, as we were seated after others that showed up after us.

Weird fact number 2: I asked if our check could be split 3 ways at the get-go (well, after we placed our drink order), and she explained that it was corporate policy that they couldn't split checks but she will do it for me this time and wanted to explain to me just in case I asked for it again next time and another server says "no." I understand from reading various experiences here that it's a hassle, so a "no" would be fine. The server's answer just made me feel awkward and that I am making her go to extra trouble to split the checks.

Weird fact number 3: There was this intense disinfectant smell by where we were seated (party of 3). I tried flagging down our server, but having a soft voice didn't help matters to try to request a seat change before our food arrived. It wasn't so bad when we first sat down, but then as we sat there waiting for the food, the smell got worse (it was pretty chemically strong enough that my one colleague felt the same). I probably should have been a bit more proactive by going to the host stand or getting a manager, but I didn't and my colleagues said not to go the extra fuss - it wasn't so bad in a sense, they said, so I felt I should drop it too. Of course, this isn't the weird part. The weird part was after I asked the server where the smell was coming from and the server explained that they were doing construction on the ceiling which might be the cause, so there was nothing they could do about the smell. There was no offer to move us (of course, we didn't suggest it either - duh.) and a meek sorry.

Later on, the floor manager came by each table down our row and almost skipped ours, but hesitantly asked how our meal was. We then explained that there was this lingering disinfectant smell (it was still there after our main courses have arrived) and he was at first saying he couldn't smell it and then said he will investigated it. Well, it turns out that they did construction overnight on their bar and then a silicone sealant was put on it (or some type of sealant) that was emitting that smell. It was weird hearing that after the whole ceiling explanation and neither explanation made me feel better. The manager offered us free dessert, but we wanted to leave, so we turned him down, and then he left our table.

It was just awkward and the food didn't taste very good because it was marred by the smell for me (differing experience for my colleagues - 1 said yes, the other no). The food overall was summed up by DPop quite well, although the yucca fries are pretty tasty here. Heed DPop's advice! I certainly should have.

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The first time I went here for lunch *right* when it opened, it was great. So I went back. I even booked a table here for New Year's Eve. Not a great idea. If I can be honest, the other customers are very often fairly rude, and it think it wears down the servers over the course of the night. My entre on New Year's Eve was actually inedible. Too bad, as I thought it had potential to be a nice place, and not a wannbe night club with subpar food and weak overpriced drinks.

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Never been to the one in Philly, so I can't speak to that, but the one on 9th and H should be avoided as you have at least 8 better options within a 3 block radius.

Yeah I always avoided the one in Olde City (Philly) like the plague... A mediocre place for a cocktail, maybe.

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has anyone been to Cuba Libre recently? Has it improved any with age? I have a friend who wants to go here for dinner but I haven't seen anything to indicate that it is any better now. than when it originally opened.

I went about 3 weeks ago for the first time. Will not go back - the drinks were tiny and overly sweet, the waiter forgot two items that we ordered and we had to have them removed from the bill and generally not all that friendly or helpful. Food was average at best - party of four and noone really raved about any of the food. Underwhelming. It also had a weirdly quiet vibe for a weekend night, half empty and very low energy, which seems at odd with the concept. Perhaps it was just an off night.

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