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REAL CUBAN FOOD

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cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 07:43 AM

I'm a newbie here, so be gentle.

Sorry folks, but Versailles doesn't cut it.

I'm originally from Miami Beach, and I know my cuban food. The only place that really comes close is Porto's (in Glendale and now NoHo) but they're not open for dinner! Eating cuban IS eating dinner at like 10pm. So I'm looking for real cuban places. I've tried this one place south of Washington Blvd. (on Sepulveda, can't think of the name) and it wasn't bad, but it's a little out of the way now (I'm in Hollywood).

It'd also be great to get a cup of cuban coffee in the morning, but I can't find a place that makes it the real cuban way (tons of sugar, stirred with a drop of coffee in a small silver pitcher). I tried the coffee at Versailles once, and I think they used Maxwell House with some milk mixed in (café con leche).

Let me know what you've found!

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  1. m
    mc michael RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 07:54 AM

    Years ago, there used to be a place in Pasadena called Isle de Caribe or something like that. It's long gone, but Pasadena does have Xiomara which should fill the bill. There's also a branch in Hollywood (on Melrose) but it's not as quite as realized as Pasadena and Xiomara herself seems to hang in Pas. Not cheap but pretty good. Incidentally, if you long for things Cuban, you might take in Andy Garcia's "The Lost City." It's slow but lovely. Restaurantwise, there is also Cuba Central (or is it Cafe Central?) downtown but it's not as good as Porto's IMHO.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mc michael
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      calabasas_trafalgar RE: mc michael Jul 5, 2006 02:24 PM

      Cuba Central(on Spring St across from the Reagan building)has been closed by the health dept. a couple of times, and has now been closed for close to a month. Even if it does reopen, beware!

      1. re: calabasas_trafalgar
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        weebie RE: calabasas_trafalgar Jul 5, 2006 06:04 PM

        While the food isn't anything special, I've never noticed anything to "beware" of at Cuba Central. According to the LA County Department of Health Services site, the most recent reasons for closure are:

        No plans submitted
        and
        No Public Health Permit

        Sounds like their management is the problem [not the food].
        I work nearby in the Bradbury and have missed having CC open for a quick lunch. Hope they're back soon.

    2. c
      cincodemayo1 RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 07:58 AM

      I've heard good things about Xiomara (in fact, I live a block and a half away from the Melrose location) but I have yet to try it.

      I looked at their website once though, and to be honest, $12 for a cuban sandwhich for lunch is a bit rediculous. You can get that same sandwhich, probably bigger, at an authentic cuban place in Miami for about $3. Maybe that's what it costs to eat cuban food in LA?

      Actually, I'll probably give Xiomara a try one of these days since my new job gets me 15% off on food and alcohol there!

      I'll have to check out The Lost City. Have you seen Buena Vista Social Club?

      Good try, but for now I'll be sticking with Porto's. Any other suggestions?

      3 Replies
      1. re: cincodemayo1
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        mc michael RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 08:07 AM

        Xiomara is more a dinner place than a sandwich spot. Have seen Buena Vista and it's livelier than Lost City but they would make a good mini-festival. I think it does clearly cost more to eat Cuban in LA than Miami but then there's the air fare that you can save by eating here.

        1. re: cincodemayo1
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          El Comelon RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 12, 2006 09:22 PM

          I would stay away from Xiomara. It is very expensive (4 of us went there for lunch and the bill came to $85 excluding tip) and the food was bland and took a long time to get there. The black beans were so-so. I do agree with you about Miami's Cuban food. Only in NY have I had Cuban food that is better than Miami's. Anyhow, to get something close to Cuban coffee, try Vietnamese coffee. It is strong and a bit sweeter but with a kick.

          1. re: El Comelon
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            oro3030 RE: El Comelon Jul 13, 2006 12:12 AM

            I'll bite. Where in NYC did you have Cuban food better than Miami? What dishes and why? Just curious.
            Los Angeles just doesn't have the CUban community that those cities do (or Carribean basin in general).

        2. y
          young_chower RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 08:01 AM

          Please try El Cochinito at 3508 Sunset Blvd. in the Echo Park/East Hollywood area. It is very close to your neighborhood. I hear it is very authentic, but since I don't really know cuban food well, I can't confirm that.

          I went there a few weeks ago and had the cuban style roast pork. It was delicious and very tasty. I would love to hear your evaluation.

          2 Replies
          1. re: young_chower
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            cincodemayo1 RE: young_chower Jul 5, 2006 08:14 AM

            I've heard good things about El Cohinito and I've been meaning to try it. As much of a fan of the sandwiches that I am, I'm mainly looking for more dinner items so that's probably the place to try. I'm really looking for a good Vaca Frita (I've been making it myself lately) and some great rice and beans and plantains. So I'll definitely give this one a try soon!

            1. re: young_chower
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              smogqueen RE: young_chower Jul 5, 2006 10:22 PM

              I'm a big fan of El Cochinito and it seems completely legit. The roast chicken and pork are both lovely. They have great plaintains and beans. Please let us know if it passes you Cuba-test

            2. r
              reality check RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 08:59 AM

              I'd like to know how the Cuban place in the Orange Circle compares.

              2 Replies
              1. re: reality check
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                cincodemayo1 RE: reality check Jul 5, 2006 06:27 PM

                Where is the Orange Circle?

                1. re: cincodemayo1
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                  cdmedici RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 07:01 PM

                  It is in the city of Orange where Chapman and Glassell intersect. There is a traffice circle and it is like stepping back into time because of the old building still in tact. In fact many movies set in the past have been filmed using the circle as a back drop.

                  Felix is a great, casual and very inexpensive restaurant. Very much worth a try if you are in the area.

                  www.felixcontinentalcafe.com

              2. bodie RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 04:26 PM

                El Floridita is a humble cuban spot in a Hollywood strip mall that you may want to check out.
                I can't say it is as good as the food I've had in Miami but hey, it's not 2500 miles away either.
                The are open for lunch and dinner and are located in the shopping center/strip mall on the southwest corner of Vine and Fountain.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bodie
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                  cincodemayo1 RE: bodie Jul 5, 2006 06:28 PM

                  I've been meaning to try El Floridita as well, and it's really close to my house. I looked at their menu online and the only problem is it's missing a lot of traditional cuban items and there are some odd ones. But it is close, so I'll probably have to stop by sometime.

                2. Yummy Sound RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 04:34 PM

                  Hey--I've been to Xiomara and I have to admit it was okay, but if you want homestyle, no-fuss Cuban then El Cochinito on Sunset in Silverlake is the best--their lechon asado is great--but its the beans, man. They make the best beans!

                  Versailles doesn't even come close--I had their fish the other day and it was terrible.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Yummy Sound
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                    cincodemayo1 RE: Yummy Sound Jul 5, 2006 07:15 PM

                    I may try to make it to El Cochinito tonight...

                    As for Versailles, don't even get me started. It's not the worst cuban place I've ever been to, it's just not even close to the best. The details are totally wrong. Like cuban coffee doesn't come from a Maxwell House can (and it's not hard to get the real stuff) and cuban toast traditionally comes on long slices of buttered and pressed cuban bread. The food isn't bad, it's just not right.

                  2. Yummy Sound RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 04:35 PM

                    Try Cafe Tropical for a good cup of Cuban Joe.

                    1. modernist RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 05:53 PM

                      i cant believe no one has suggested el colmao.
                      its on pico between hoover and vermont on the south side.
                      i've only eaten there once, and to be perfectly honest im no expert on cuban food, but every time i go there it feels very cuban, (ie. mostly cubans eating there.) they serve a gallicean bean soup on certain days. there is a dessert called tocino de cielo (bacon from heaven) that i havent seen on most menus.

                      i too am not a fan of versailles, el rincon criolo in the westside is better. i like portos and i used to go to cafe tropical when i was in the neighborhood. but if i want a chunk of fried pork ill head to el colmao.

                      i'd like to know what a dude who really knows his cuban thinks.
                      i know that its been around forever, if not the original cuban joint in la.

                      El Colmao
                      2328 W Pico Blvd
                      Los Angeles, CA 90006
                      (213) 386-6131

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: modernist
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                        ZoeZ RE: modernist Jul 6, 2006 07:52 PM

                        This place has marvellous food - never disappoints; great sangria, galacian soup has deep chicken flavor (they must use 9 chickens to a bowl to get this kind of broth); tongue on Mondays. The down side is the neighborhood but the parking lot in front has a guard who will "take care of the car" when promised a tip - leaving the lot I usually have someone tap on the window to make a sale. Drive fast. The food's worth it.

                      2. b
                        Babette RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 06:05 PM

                        Xiomara also owns a smaller, less expensive Cuban cafe around the corner in Pasadena, Cafe Atlantic.

                        Cafe Atlantic
                        (626) 796-7350

                        53 E Union St
                        Pasadena, CA 91103

                        Cross Street:
                        Raymond Ave.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Babette
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                          Jack Flash RE: Babette Jul 5, 2006 06:43 PM

                          Cafe Atlantic no longer exists as a separate entity. It is now part of the Xiomara restaurant itself.

                          1. re: Jack Flash
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                            Babette RE: Jack Flash Jul 5, 2006 11:08 PM

                            Thanks for that info. I called & they still have all the Cafe Atlantic menu items (plus full bar).

                            Xiomara (including Cafe Atlantic)
                            69. N. Raymond
                            Pasadena
                            (626) 796-7350

                        2. e
                          Ernie RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 06:09 PM

                          I'm a big fan of La Cubana in Glendale. They have limited days and hours, but have been around since the early 70s. I don't think they are open for breakfast but I love their lechon.

                          1. Kris P Pata RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 5, 2006 11:33 PM

                            If it's real you want, then few come any more authentic -- or more humble -- than LA CARIDAD on Temple St. just West of Alvarado in Historic Filipinotown. It's the non-descript storefront across from the art gallery and the husband and wife team are as genuine as the food they cook. Not sure if it's affiliated with the NYC cult fave Chinese Cuban of the same name (I doubt it) but, get a plate to go, make the trek a few blocks north to Echo Park and dine alfresco aside the ducks, the lotus pad and the statue of Jose Marti.

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                              oro3030 RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 6, 2006 12:41 AM

                              I was born and raised in Miami. I have Cuban family and have eaten the food my whole life at home and in restaurants in Miami. If you are looking for something even approaching the mediocrity of La Carreta you won't find it in LA. I'd kill for a Pollo Tropical even.

                              There is no Cuban restaurant in LA that manages to get everything right (even Porto's - what's with the cafe and bad sandwiches?)
                              (Note: I haven't tried La Cochinita yet so maybe that's my holy grail).
                              The best you can do is a piecemeal approach:

                              - La Cubana in Glendale has an excellent version of Ropa Vieja. Very authentic. Avoid their arroz y frijoles though. The moros is passable only.

                              -Havana Mania in Manhattan Beach has good lechon and great mojitos but again poor arroz y frijoles.

                              -Cafe Baracoa in Atwater Village had the most authentic flan I've had in LA and good arroz y frijoles but I was not blown away by their other dishes though i haven't been in awhile.

                              -El Colmao. I was expecting the best Cuban food in LA there based on the hype. I was extremely disappointed with nearly everything I had there. It deserves another try but I have trouble going back based on the meal I had.

                              Avoid Xiomara in Pasadena - no Cuban food should be priced that much. Versailles, as you noted, is a joke.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: oro3030
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                                jtnbilly RE: oro3030 Jul 12, 2006 01:53 PM

                                Havana Mania is very easy to get to Southbound on 405 freeway it is 150 yards from the off ramp at Inglewood Ave. Make a right go over railroad tracks and pull into pkg lot. The Rabo Encendido is excellent. The Lechon is very good and the chicken breast also is good. Have fun and tell Luis I said Hi this is Eddie who moved to the Tampa area from Torrance....

                              2. o
                                Ollie RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 6, 2006 04:20 AM

                                Check this out, take your pick! That simple.
                                http://www.mejordecuba.com/restaurant...

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Ollie
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                                  cincodemayo1 RE: Ollie Jul 6, 2006 06:59 PM

                                  Good list! I'll have to look into these.

                                  I've actually been to Madre's in Pasadena (I think I went during Happy Hour) and it was actually very good! It's not really cuban, more of a caribbean mix, good tapas dishes, but they do have some cuban plates, like paella.

                                  I've also been to Paladar, and that's also not your traditional cuban. It was actually pretty good (I remember a roasted corn app covered in some kind of white cheese and then brushed with a chili pepper powder) and the cuban sandwhich wasn't too bad either.

                                  1. re: Ollie
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                                    oro3030 RE: Ollie Jul 6, 2006 11:00 PM

                                    I like how Madre's in this list has a "10.0 authenticity rating" and as noted below doesn't serve Cuban food.

                                  2. m
                                    mc michael RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 6, 2006 05:17 AM

                                    We've neglected to mention this Asian-Latin fusion scene known as Asia de Cuba. Probably a ripoff but clearly a nicely designed establishment. http://www.mondrianhotel.com/mondrian...

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: mc michael
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                                      myca RE: mc michael Jul 11, 2006 09:19 PM

                                      LOL How many well-designed restaurants in LA are actually good?

                                      1. re: myca
                                        m
                                        mc michael RE: myca Jul 12, 2006 02:36 AM

                                        The old Patina was. The new Patina, not so much.

                                    2. p
                                      Paul T RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 11, 2006 08:28 PM

                                      It's a bit far but you might try Habana Cafe, 11402 Old River School, Downey, CA (562) 776-7251. I also like the coffee at Cafe Tropical in Silverlake.

                                      1. d
                                        diningdivala RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 11, 2006 08:45 PM

                                        I'm no expert, but here's my two cents:

                                        I love Porto's sandwiches and papas rellenas. I'm not cuban, but damn are they good.

                                        Xiomara is overpriced, but Cafe Atlantic (now in the back of Ximoara) did have great yuca fries and ropa vieja. They had a great roast pork that they made into a sandwich, but I just got a plate of it.

                                        I've had a sandwich from La Cubana only. The lights were too bright for me (my peeve), so I didn't hang out too long. Delish sandwich, though, and much much bigger than Porto's for just a little more.

                                        I've never found Cuban coffee like the kind I had in Key West the few winters I spent there.

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                                          AquaW RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 11, 2006 09:21 PM

                                          There's also Cuban Bistro in Alhambra (it has a adjoining lounge/dance floor with live music on weekends) -- prices are also a bit high for what you're getting (around Xiomara's) but may be worth a check-out.

                                          www.cubanbistro.com

                                          1. j
                                            jtnbilly RE: cincodemayo1 Jul 12, 2006 01:56 PM

                                            Madres was opened by Jennifer Lopez about 8 years ago. Never been to it.....but I assume it is Puerto RICAN INFLUENCED......

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                                              young_chower RE: cincodemayo1 Jan 15, 2007 06:06 PM

                                              I saw a cuban restaurant somewhere around the corner of Hawthorne and El Segundo (?). It's in a stip mall. Has anyone been there? I'm curious if it's a find.

                                              1. lil mikey RE: cincodemayo1 Jan 15, 2007 09:05 PM

                                                I like El Criollo on Victory near Coldwater.

                                                The couple who run it are very sweet, and the food has never disappointed. They make a great chicken fricasee, the ropa vieja isn't bad, and I've also had delicious fish dishes there.

                                                It's about $10 for lunch, and it just seems like the real deal. (I haven't been to Cuba, but I've been to Orlando, which isn't Miami, but at least it's closer).

                                                1. s
                                                  szaszigeti RE: cincodemayo1 Apr 26, 2007 04:41 PM

                                                  Hi there. I'm a native of L.A. and agree with cincodemayo1.
                                                  There's a Cuban-Yucatecan restaurant on Melrose called Xiomara
                                                  that is actually owned by Xiomara Ardolina who is a real
                                                  Cuban born chef. She's also got a location on Raymond in Pasadena,
                                                  but the location on Melrose in Hollywood has much more "ambiente."
                                                  It serves fine Cuban influenced cuisine and has a respectable wine list.
                                                  Porto's in Glendale is the only real Cuban bakery I know of here in L.A., and it's also owned by Cubans that know how to make you a real Cafe Con Leche the way it should be made. Their pastries are excellent. Portos also serves the typical Cuban style sandwiches.
                                                  Cafe Tropical on Sunset in Silverlake is popular but has faux Cuban wares although I do like the "Che" decor. I don't think it's owned and run by Cubans. It seems to run by Mexicans which is fine as I'm Mexican too, but that's not where I go if I want authentic Cuban stuff. I believe the Cubans inherited their style of making coffee from Spain, because while travelling Spain I tried some excellent coffee. There, a Cafe Con Leche is what Italians call Caffe Latte (Latte means "milk"). End of message.

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