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in need of some good cuban food

the chowhound older sister is in town this weekend and requested ny's best cuban (she loves ropa vieja). location: pref chelsea and below...west or east side doesn't matter. price: not an issue.

any suggestions for a cuban place with good atmosphere, amazing food and creative drinks? (and if possible, not cafe habana and not a fusion type of spot).

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  1. A Cuban friend of mine introduced me to Havana Alma de Cuba a while ago - I love their ropa vieja and use it as the "control" when I try other places. It's on Christopher just west of Bleeker - South side of street.

    1. Ever been to Havana Chelsea (190 8th Avenue in the '20's - I always forget the exact cross streets)? It seems like it is right up your alley, based on what you are describing. I know it's up mine: nice, friendly, warm diner atmosphere, great counter, stacks of cubanos waiting to be pressed, staring out from behind the red neon lettering in the window at passing pedestrians. Some of the tasty items I've had there are the Octopus Salad, the Cubano (available in two sizes) and one of the best home-cooked bowls of chicken soup in the city.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Polecat

        I love Havana Chelsea but they only have Ropa Vieja on Fridays and plus there are no drinks and the atmosphere is a little on the side of divey.

        1. re: KTinNYC

          "...the atmosphere is a little on the side of divey"

          Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I never see that as a deficit. If the place was dirty, which it isn't, then that's another thing.
          But what you see as divey, I see as being homey and down to earth.

          1. re: Polecat

            I love Havana Chelsea but I just want the OP to know what s/he to know what the place really looks like. I eat there all the time, I have no problem with the atmosphere.

      2. I'm a big fan of Cafecito on C between 11th & 12th. Their churrasco is excellent, as are the beans and rice that accompany it. For apps, try the tostones. Their mojito is also one of the best I have had in the City. It is a fun place too, albeit a little out of the way for most people. Cash only.

        1. If you are willing to travel to Queens, here's a wonderful place. The only trouble is that their best food is the daily specials and they have ropa vieja as a special on Tuesday.


          1. Havana Chelsea 18 and 8th ave. Great Cuban sandwich and chicken soup. enjoy

            1. My Cuban colleague says her favorite Cuban restaurants are Victor's Cafe on 52nd St near Times Square followed by the cleverly named Cuba on Thompson St near Washington Square Park. I haven't been to either so this is pure hearsay.

              3 Replies
              1. re: shane

                I second Victor's that's where I head when I get a craving for Cuban. I especially love their rabo encendido it's fantastic.

                1. re: maria_nyc

                  Is this the same Victor's that Barry Farber used to advertise on his radio show back in the 80s? They must have been around for a while. With that location they must be quite expensive - what is the price range?

                  1. re: butterchicken2nan

                    I'm not sure who Barry Farber is, but the restaurant has been around for a long while.
                    In terms of prices, it's probably mid-range.
                    Dinner entres are in the mid $20s to low $30s approx.

              2. Cuba would be a good choice...solid food, great atmosphere, live music, and a free fresh rolled cigars to boot (a guy actually sits in the corner rolling all night)

                1. i concur with the cafecito recommendation...they do serve a decent ropa vieja and pretty decent mojitos and very reasonably priced albeit cash only. victor's cafe is slightly higher end and located in the theater district...love the rabo dish there.

                  1. I've only eaten there once (and I'm pretty sure I'll be scoffed at for this rec), but "Son Cubano" in Meat Packing District would seem to fit the bill, especially if price isn't important. They have a cuban band playing regularly, the atmosphere is festive (a little bit 'meat packing', but not unbearable), they serve very good drinks, and they have a solid ropa vieja. Prices are too high for what the food is (I think the ropa vieja is about $20, which is borderline criminal to me), but I definitely enjoyed my experience there...

                    1. Little Havana on Cornelia Street. The ropa vieja (I think) is very good - first time eating it so there is no way to compare. It is a great little place for good food and friendly service, after a long day of work.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: angelanyc

                        I really like Little Havana too, but no creative drinks.