Those sassy Europeans may have us beat when it comes to unhindered travel to Havana, but why pay hundreds of dollars for an international flight when utterly delicious Cuban cuisine is in the heart of our fair metropolis?
Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar (9th & H Streets NW) has it all–food, drinks, decor, ambiance–and offers Nuevo Latino charm that will make you do the cha cha.
The spacious restaurant transports you to 1950s Havana with striking building facades, lush plants and energetic Cuban music. Your imagination doesn’t have to work hard to feel like you’ve stepped from the concrete to the Carribean. The place is so lovely and the staff so friendly that a 30 minute wait is just fine, thank you.
Take a seat at the bar and peruse the rum-heavy drink menu. With 14 different types of mojitos, you won’t be left wanting. When in doubt, the classic mojito is refreshing, crisp and exactly what you wanted when you signed up for Cuban food.
The dinner menu offers something (Cuban) for everyone, with meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes. The knowledgable and friendly servers can help navigate the many options while they are serving you melt-in-your-mouth Cuban bread with mango butter. The flattened bread rounds are wonderful by themselves, but in combination with the mango butter, they have a flavor surprisingly akin to French toast. It’s a delightful way to start your meal and a sign of all the good things to come.
Quite simply, the food is exeptional. Mama Amelia’s Empanadas are a standout item–the pulled pork in particular. Try a Cuban classic with the ropa vieja, a shredded beef and vegetable dish with rice that is made to satisfy. The portions are generous but not grotesque, the food arrives quickly and your mojito will be swiftly replenished. The attention to detail both in cuisine and culture makes Cuba Libre a complete dining experience. Even the check is delivered with Cuban flair: it comes in a cigar box.
Written by guest columnist Marie Francis. Follow Marie on Twitter.