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Chez Henri (The Bar Area), Cambridge -- WOW!

A friend of mine brought us to one of his hangouts between Porter and Harvard Squares in Cambridge last night. He and his wife go to the bar area of Chez Henri every now and then for the cubano (Cuban sandwich). I had heard awhile back about how good the cubanos at Chez Henri are, but nothing prepared me for this. It was about as perfect a sandwich as I've had, with tasty slices of pork, ham, cucumbers, and cheese in French bread. It was a mess, but what a mess it was! The plantain chips that came with it were excellent, too. We also ordered a plate of ham croquettes which were also delicious.

I might have to go back tonight! I could live off their Cuban sandwiches there...

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  1. I love the Chez Henri bar too! Scott and Ari (???) mix up great drinks, the wine list is killer, and there is usually a nice, chill vibe through out.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ponyboy

      Is it uncool for me to sit and eat at the bar there if I don't drink?

      1. re: bee

        It shouldn't be. I've only been once, but my impression was that the staff are very friendly and accomodating. As long as you are ordering something (food, for example) I don't see why you can't sit at the bar. I say go for it.

        1. re: heathermb

          It should be no problem at all, I'd say. Especially since many people go to the bar for one thing and one thing only--the cubano.

      2. re: ponyboy

        For those asking, aren't there like 2-3 two-tops in the bar area from which you can order from the bar menu? I can't believe I haven't been there in a year. So many places to go to soon ...

      3. If it were less regularly sardine-packed there, I'd go more often.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Would it be inappropriate to take my 6-year-old to eat at the bar at Chez Henri, assuming we got there on the early side (say, around 6:30)? She's a precocious eater for a 6-year-old (she loves the fried oysters and the mussels at ECG), and I'm always looking for places that will please both of us. The more alternatives to Rainforest Cafe the better!

          1. re: Blumie

            I could be wrong, but I believe children are not allowed to be seated at bars in Massachusetts, even when just eating food. But I couldn't Google anything to confirm.

        2. Oddly enough, it was pretty empty last night around 8:30. We got a window seat, ordered our food and beers (their Munich beer was really good, by the way), and hung out for about an hour.

          Now Toad--that was a different story. Talk about sardine-packed. We had gone there for a beer before Chez Henri, and I couldn't breathe in there, it was so crowded.

          1. Yeah, try living 2 miles away...dangerous! Do I dare confess that CH is programmed into my cell phone??

            I also like the grilled chourizo/sausage with mashed potatoes. Not quite the weather for it now, but good beer drinking stick-to-your-ribs food.

            1. EXCELLENT Cubano. You know who make a pretty good one also? Anthem, over by the Garden. Not as perfect as CH's, but darn good.

              1. I always expect it to be jammed (from comments on the board), but there's been plenty of room on each of my three visits. If finding parking nearby weren't such a drag we'd go more often. Great atmosphere, creative, yummy food, awesome Mojitos, professional service.

                1. Got a great Cuban sandwich before a recent Red Sox game at Luis Tiante's place beside Fenway - El Tiante. Only open to ticket holders after you pass the gates - - I was surprised at the quality!

                  1. Hopefully an El Tiante will open up somewhere outside of Fenway soon!

                    I'm in Lawrence a lot and heard about an amazing place for Cuban sandwiches in the downtown area, but I lost the name of the place (doh!). If I find out what it is, I will definitely try it soon, though I can't imagine it being better than what I had at Chez Henri last night.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: hiddenboston

                      The one at the Plough and Stars is pretty close. But, Chez Henri is simply the best. Now maybe you'll try the other things we go on and on obsessively about! :-)

                        1. re: hiddenboston

                          Wait -- I thought this board WAS a list! Off the top of my head, the things that are raved about like this cubano are the tuna tacos at ECG, Tigers Tears at Floating Rock, ceviche at Rincon Limeno, the gnocchi at Sage...

                          1. re: yumyum

                            great list...I still need to tackle the ceviche at Rincon Limeno

                      1. re: hiddenboston

                        A place in Lawrence that makes a good cubano is Garcia's, on the side street next to Tripoli's, across the street from Napoli's. Also in Lawrence, Polo Tipico does a good cubano.

                      2. I've been to Pollo Tipico. Very good cubanos there. Garcia's! Is that the name of the place? Someone told me the place with the great cubanos is on that side street between Common Street and Essex Street. That's got to be the same place. Thanks!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: hiddenboston

                          I really like the cubano at Garcia's....cheap too, $5.95

                          1. re: Infomaniac

                            I was actually thinking of Cesar's, which is across from Tripoli. I guess I don't know where Garcia's is. Do you have a street address? I can't seem to find anything on the Internet.

                            1. re: hiddenboston

                              I'm confusing town's...it is Cesar's on Newbury Street, across from Tripoli...that's the place with the Cubano's you have to try...sorry

                              1. re: Infomaniac

                                (I shouldn't hijack the Chez Henri thread with this, but it doesn't warrant its own topic) Have either of you tried Pollo Latino in Haverhill (no cubano)? I even went so far as entering once, but my companions didn't want to eat there and it had closed by the time I passed on another trip.

                                1. re: Infomaniac

                                  Not sure where Pollo Latino is in Haverhill. If you have an address or idea where in town it is I'll check it out.

                                  1. re: Infomaniac

                                    I believe it is on River St (Exit 50 off 495) before the bridge. I saw another latino-looking establishment around (cibao's??) and I think there was another on Washington? There also is a Latino Festival at GAR Park on the 27th, although I have no idea if there will be much chow -- the info # for that is 978-697-3160.

                            2. Just remembered having a really good Cuban at The Real Deal in West Rox on Centre St. a couple of weeks ago....

                              1. Inspired by this thread to try Chez Henri BF and I went last night to eat at the bar. It was crowded and we had to wait about 30 minutes for seats at the bar. Didn't mind this, especially since the bartender and hostess did a great job of managing the wait for bar seating so that we did not feel as if we had to hover or claim our seats.

                                For cocktails I had the Capirihna and my BF the Mojito. We shared the Bistro Salad which was delicious - bitter baby greens with a tart dressing, shaved serrano ham, egg, and a truffled red-wine mayo which was good but very, very strong so we left most of it on the plate.
                                For entree we shared the pressed pork sandwich and that was just divine - not a crumb was left!
                                After looking at the dessert menu we did order dessert - the Boca Negra which consisted of a chocolate-chipotle torte, peanut brittle, banana ice cream, and caramel sauce. Neither of us likes caramel so we left that. The torte was too spicy for my taste (I'm a wimp in that category) so I had the brittle and ice cream and BF ate the torte. That too was gone - save the lovely little pools of caramel.
                                A truly enjoyable evening, we will absolutely go back. Thanks for the inspiration!

                                1. I should also mention that a gentleman sitting next to us at the bar recommended the Montrose Spa on Mass Ave (around the corner from Chez Henri) as another place for very good pressed cuban sandwiches. It is a convenience store, so you don't get atmosphere, cocktails, or really a place to sit - but he did say it was worth getting there.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: heathermb

                                    The Cubano at Montrose is good, but not in the same league as the one at Chez Henri. Maybe I will have one from CH for dinner tonight.

                                  2. I finally made it over to Chez Henri last night and was pleased to discover that everything I'd heard about THE cubano was indeed true. You're totally right about it being sandwich perfection, nothing fancy, just right. We also had the clam fritters, which I found a bit too doughy for my taste, but my goodness, that sandwich!

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: delikado

                                      I really should have gone here tonight. I went to Atwood's instead and discovered that I really really really don't like bangers. I suspect that the cubano is relatively large, and I was hungry, so it would've been the opportune time.

                                      Leading into questions...

                                      How big is it, dimensions wise? (hope that doesn't sound too anal - I have a tendency to clean my plate long after I'm full and regret it afterwards)

                                      What does it come with?

                                      and the most important of all,

                                      Do they have beer on tap at Chez Henri?

                                      1. re: twitchology

                                        It comes with fried plantains and a salsa, and that generates my only complaint--the salsa is wet and always put on top and it makes the crisp plantains mushy. I wish they'd serve the salsa on the side or not at all (it's not very good, IMO) or an aioli or something instead. Or I wish I would remember to ask them to skip it, but I never do! I'm too excited thinking about the sandwich.

                                        1. re: dulce de leche

                                          To the poster above, the cubano is HUGE. 12" long by 5 wide by nearly 5 thick. The one time I ate a whole one I really regretted it, but it was GOOD.

                                          The plantains are really plantain chips, tasty, but not the tostones that would really be authentic. And salsa, well that's not Cuban at all...

                                        2. re: twitchology

                                          I think it's the perfect size to share. I have never tried to eat the whole thing, but I think it would be a regrettable decision.

                                          Also, for comparison, make a point to grab a cubano at the Montrose spa right down Mass Ave. It's not THE sandwich, but it's cheap and cheerful.

                                          1. re: yumyum

                                            I went to Chez Henri for the first time a few weeks ago & ate a whole cubano - then went home and slipped into a total food coma for 9 hours =) It's a large amount of food (OK, maybe the 2 mojitos contributed to the coma, too).

                                            1. re: yumyum

                                              oh you guys are joshing around! the last time i had a cubano at chez henri, i started out with a ceviche app and then dug into my sandwich and plantains, and thought it was the perfect amount for dinner. or do you guys also make 3 meals out of your speed's hot dog?

                                              i would never share my cubano at chez henri.

                                              1. re: autopi

                                                So are they OK with two people sharing a cubano? praps if one orders another little plate of something? And what are some cocktails that you would recommend for someone who has (besides wine) had only weak g&t, campari,vermouth, sherry (wine again)--not too strong, bitter or sweet or complicated?

                                                1. re: cassis

                                                  I've never had a problem splitting the Cubano. Maybe order some of their empanadas if you want something else to share.

                                                  The mojito is very good, as is the Perodista but the latter will kick your @ss.

                                                2. re: autopi

                                                  I can eat a whole Speed's dog, but if you ask me there is 2X as much food in a Chez Henri Cubano then in a Speed's dog.

                                                  1. re: autopi

                                                    That sounds like a challenge =) I normally don't have a problem packing it away (this would be no surprise to my doctor), but for some reason the cubano (plus cocktails, I suppose) totally put me down for the count. I eagerly look forward to a rematch.

                                            2. Anyone want to weigh in on the veggie cubano at Chez Henri? Everyone I know loves the meat version, I've never heard a good thing about the veggie one -- "bland" and "soggy" are the words that pop to mind.

                                              That aside, I love Chez Henri. I live dangerously close and am there often... based on my experience of loitering at the bar, my take on etiquette would be 1) I see people sharing the cubano all the time; 2) I've never seen a child there; 3) when I've gone just to eat I usually order an EANAB (like tea or something), but as long as you're eating it's probably ok not to drink, especially when it's not busy.

                                              My personal favorite off the bar menu is the spinach salad with the duck tamal. For drinks, the delectable periodista (though as someone said, on an empty stomach it will go straight to your noggin!). Another good food ordering option if you just want little stuff to pick at is to choose from the apps/small plates on the regular menu (you can order off the regular menu as well when you're sitting at the bar). The only things I've been disappointed with off the regular menu have been a posole (way too thin and watery, with like 3 lonely kernels of posole in the bowl) and their ceviches are hit and miss. Sometimes they get too creative (as well as minimalist on the portions) and end up masking the flavor of the fish with some other knockout combo of tastes.

                                              A final note... Chez Henri has the most amazing mashed potatoes that have ever graced my lips. I challenge someone to find better in Boston! You can order them as a side off the regular menu-- a lovely, airy, buttery mound of heaven. I've been known to order those and a salad and make a meal off it.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: turtl_girl

                                                I like the meat cubano, but I *crave* the veggie one. In fact, at least in my small, weird circle of fairly chowish omnivore friends, we all prefer the veggie version.

                                                Great combination of tasty roasted vegetables and gruyere; the flavors integrate exceptionally well. It's still a very rich sandwich, but a shade or two less so than the meat version. It's the most substantial and satisfying vegetarian sandwich I can think of. As I've said before, it's not a great vegetarian sandwich, it's a great sandwich, period.

                                                I absolutely love the spinach salad and duck tamal. My wife and I often split the veggie cubano and that salad, and perhaps a tasty beverage or two, and go home as happy campers.