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Cuban 101

Try these three delicious Cuban entrees.


Ropa Vieja // Photo by Mitch Tobias

There’s so much more to Cuban restaurants than mojitos. And with three new spots opening, we got the scoop on what to order. Typically, Cuban dishes use very little spice, instead relying on slow roasting to produce rich, robust flavor—which pairs perfectly with a mint-muddled rum drink.

Arroz con Pollo
Linda Swartz, owner of Concord’s new Cuba Linda Café, calls this yellow rice and chicken dish, simmered with white wine and saffron broth, “Cuban risotto.” She uses her mother-in-law’s recipe, arroz con pollo a la chorrera, which means “in the stream” and results in a moist, soupy version of the dish. “It’s totally comfort food,” she says.

1909 Salvio St., Concord, (925) 798-2822, cubalindacafe.com.

Ropa Vieja
This steak dish (pictured above) is slow cooked until the meat falls apart, becoming so shredded that it looks like ropa vieja, or old clothes, says Joelle Scott, who owns Walnut Creek’s Havana—and the soon-to-open Havana Café—with her husband, Zack. This dish is slow roasted with sofrito, a combination of onions, green peppers, and garlic braised in olive oil, and tomato paste. In Cuba, the dish is often made with leftover meat, but at Havana, “We use high-quality skirt steak,” she says.

1516 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-4555, havanarestaurant.net.

Lechon Asado
At Oakland’s new Caña Café, this garlic-studded pork leg is slow roasted for eight hours in the chef’s specialty sofrito, which includes sherry, tomato, and cumin for an intensely flavorful kick. Temper the fire on your palate with a side of sweet, tender fried plantains with heavenly cinnamon cream.

530 Lake Park Ave., Oakland, (510) 832-1515, canaoakland.com.


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