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Jun 8, 2009 01:33 PM

Downhill Alert: Cubana Cafe (Smith St.)

We recently had a dismal experience at Cubana Cafe, a restaurant we'd previously enjoyed although hadn't visited in at least a year and a half.

The host/server -- who could tell -- was out to lunch. Really aloof and apathetic. Thus, it came as no surprise that he bungled our order and failed to bring either of the two sides we ordered with our entrees. My wife successfully predicted something like this would happen when we first placed our order since he didn't write any part of it down. The food that did come was pretty insipid. My chickpea salad with corn and arugula was actually pretty good, but my wife's jicama, apple, and cotija salad lacked any seasoning other than the sharpness of the cheese. Her palomilla was as bland as could be -- I don't know what they marinated it in, but they need to double the volume and triple the duration. Weak. My picadillo was uninspired. Worse, my toddler's quesadilla was accompanied by a small mound of chickpeas with a pool of dressing that bathed the quesadilla which is a major textural flaw, especially for a little kid! When we decided to quietly call it quits and request the check before finishing our meals, the manager (I am guessing that's who he was) actually got annoyed that we were dissatisfied and argued that he had asked us if everything was OK earlier and we had said 'yes." Unbelievable. I honestly don't recall him checking in with us, but I'm sure he probably did do so just as the entrees arrived (before we realized that the other food hadn't come and that the food that was in front of us really stunk). He actually seemed like a pretty nice guy who cared about his customers despite his poor execution in the final moments (and in contrast to his spacey cohort who never cared at all throughout the evening and also screwed up the order for the couple dining beside us!). Anyway, a rough outing. We won't be going back.

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  1. shouldn't a downhill alert at least be based on more than one visit?

    1 Reply
    1. re: mrnyc

      Poor service at the hands of two different staff members, two dishes that failed to arrive, and poorly executed dishes that did manage to hit our plates? Times two since the strangers next to us had a near identical experience? Ummm, I think that qualifies as a downhill alert and not an off-night!

    2. When was this place ever uphill? Cubana Cafe was always a scene first and restaurant second. We went a few times when they opened years ago and thought the food was bland, the seating obnoxiously crowded and the service amateurish. Blech.

      6 Replies
      1. re: oolah

        Oohla took the words out of my mouth, which I'd planned to share yesterday. I had the exact same experience w/ the food, seating, and service the few times I went after it opened, so took it off my list and never returned.

        1. re: cgchow

          Always thought it was just OK mainly because it was something different then the usual Chinese/Mexican/Thai/Bistros, etc. in the area. If there was another Cuban place, and I'm open to suggestions, to compare it too then I'd probably feel differently. If you have more then a party of four then good luck getting seated, as the other posters mentioned it is tight in there.

          1. re: cgchow

            Seconded. It was never good, and the "Cuban" food at the two Dominican lunch counters on Smith is far superior.

            But I have to agree - two staff issues with two parties on the *same* night don't really qualify for a downhill - it could just be an "*off night*. If you've liked their food in the past, why not give them a second try. This isn't Per Se, they can have an off night.

            1. re: lambretta76

              We were a bit dismayed by the Dominican lunch counters on Smith, we got their take out menus and found they were exactly the same typos and all. The food was nothing spectacular, though I do remember them having generous portions. If we decided to go back what dishes would you recommend?

              1. re: MShapiro

                The one further down Smith St. does a wonderful dish with chicken, broccoli, and a crazy amount of garlic.

          2. re: oolah

            agreed....that place has always been mediocre at best.