I arrived a few minutes before noon to an empty eating area and a warm welcome from the hostess. I handed her my business card and she happily replied, “Oh yes, we knew you were coming!” This sufficiently puffed up my over-inflated sense of self-importance one more notch and I chose a seat where I could get a nice view of the entire dining area during my meal. The dark ceiling with strings of white Christmas lights was a stark contrast to the bright, hot sun of the day. Each table was decorated with a cigar box and a vase with a single flower.
I had the pleasure of emailing the owner and talking with the manager on the phone when scheduling my meal, but unfortunately they were out of town when I arrived and did not get the pleasure of meeting them. However, the VP of Culinary Operations, Alan Manfredonia (Mr. Man for short), was quite friendly and happy to answer my endless questions about Cuban fare. For instance, many menu selections came with Mojo sauce and he explained that Mojo sauce to Cubans is what Old Bay is to Marylanders: it adorns many food items in the area. This tasty sauce is made from chopped garlic and onions mixed with olive oil, citrus juices, and various spices. This basic concoction can be altered to fit the entrée, such as adding chopped mango to sweeten it up for a salad or adding chopped pickles for a more relish-like garnish. At this time, a steady lunch crowd started to file in and fill up the inside and outside seating. The place was full by time I left.
Now, to the entrée. I could have my pick of the menu and there were many tempting items, but I decided to stay true to my “Mr. Cheap” rules and picked the Classic Cuban Sandwich ($9.00). A few summers back, I discovered the beautiful union of pork and mustard, and this sandwich boasts tender, slow-roasted pork, mustard, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and pressed between two slices of traditional Cuban bread. The firm crust, the gratifying crunch, the thickness of the sandwich, and the tenderness of the tasty pork makes this sandwich a must-try! I scooped mojo with the sharper edges of the sandwich to intensify the flavor. As I was eating, the manager explained how their mojo has actually been picked up by Whole Foods in Annapolis and they’re looking into expand into creating frozen Cuban dinners, which will be carried by Whole Foods in the Baltimore, Annapolis, DC areas. That’s definitely something I’m going to follow up on and look into once they’re available! Another thing I loved about this order was, instead of typical potato chips, they come with thin, crisp plantain chips. This is a nice difference from the typical sandwich side.
After the substantial sandwich, if I wasn’t so full and the day wasn’t so hot, I would have considered a Cuban hot chocolate with fresh churros, but I just couldn’t. Even though most entrees on the menu cash in above my cheap eats price range, this is one item that qualifies as a 'cheap eat' and it is worth it. I am glad this was my first experience with Cuban food.
- Mr. Cheap