Letters to The Chef – What Are The Tell-Tale Signs That You’re In An Authentic Cuban Restaurant?

By on March 27, 2014 — Comments Off on Letters to The Chef – What Are The Tell-Tale Signs That You’re In An Authentic Cuban Restaurant?


Hi Guys,

I was asked an interesting question in an email the other day, so I thought I’d share it and my answer with you all.



How are you? I hope all is well. I have a story angle for Pambiche that I want to try and I was wondering if you could help me. There are lots of restaurants popping up that claim to offer authentic Cuban food and yet many of them are really anything but. I was wondering if you could give me the top nine ways to know you’re at a truly authentic Cuban restaurant. They can be about everything from ingredients to drinks to recipes to how the food is served.

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Jenny Block

Hi Jenny, Good to hear from you! I’d be happy to help!

Top 9 Ways To Know You’re At An Authentic Cuban Restaurant

beans1. The black beans are so good you are inclined to order them as your entrée. Black beans are a staple in Cuban cuisine and the favorite legume for Cubans everywhere. Authentic Cuban black bean pottage (potaje de frijoles negros) will have a rich soupy broth, but not too thick like chili con carne, but not at all watery. The beans should be very soft, some of them will be broken down but most of the beans will hold their shape. There will be stewed bits of onion and green pepper from the sofrito and you’ll find an occasional bay leaf that you will take great pleasure sucking on.

2. You will likely find other bean pottages or soups, but none will be refried.

3. You will savor the wonder of fried ripe plantains. So much so that you would be willing to eat them in a house with a mouse or on a boat with a goat but not with fresh cheese and cream. You would rather save that for the day you visited the authentic Central American restaurant (Guatemalan, Honduran, Nicaraguan, etc.).

dac4. You will relish in the delight of a true Cuban daiquirí (white rum, fresh lime juice and cane sugar, shaken over ice and served up) and wonder why anyone would ever disgrace this perfect cocktail with whipped cream and artificially colored cherries.

5. You will taste the Cuban roast pork and begin to feel sorry for your Jewish and Muslim friends because they will never savor the flavor of this heavenly hog. Then you will think more for me!!

6. If you are lucky you will find a delicious corn tamale with an even more delicious pork filling, but, the tortilla you are served will not be made of corn, it will be a delightful frittata like omelette aromatic of olive oil and studded with ripe plantains and caramelized onions. This will make you smile long after you’ve left the restaurant.

mojo7. The garlic mojo is so mouthwatering you ask for another side of it, again!

8. After you drink your first mojito you suddenly feel joyful and refreshed and think to yourself “nectar of the gods” and immediately order another!! This whole process takes only 5 minutes, you’re impressed because you don’t consider yourself a “drinker”.

flan9. The 9th and final way to know that you are at a truly authentic Cuban restaurant is that after eating the flan you will cautiously begin to look over your shoulder scanning the dining room for an opportunity when no one is looking your way so that you can lick the remaining caramel sauce off the plate and maintain some personal dignity, but when that moment doesn’t come you say the hell with it and lick the plate anyway.

So there’s your list of 9 ways, but I could keep going, let me know if you need more…..



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