Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Philadelphia >
Apr 15, 2012 03:23 PM

Any Cuban Restaurant Suggestion

Hi all. Technically I live in New Jersey, but I am extremely close to Philadelphia, so I figure it may be more appropriate to post here. I have not had Cuban foods for a long time, and I am looking for some suggestions.

I was considering going to Cuba Libre (10 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA) today, but it is pretty late, so maybe I will do it next week. Any suggestion beside Cuba Libre? I am not necessary looking for a fancy place since I often eat by myself, but fancy is ok too. Just looking for some thing tasty, a friendly environment. Nothing way too picky.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. For something more "down home" than Cuba Libre, go to Tierra Colombiana on 5th St near Wyoming Ave. The menu is broken down by Cuban dishes and Colombian dishes. As for the neighborhood, it isn't the best, but nothing to really keep you away.

    Actually, where in NJ are you? You might be able to find something in/near Camden. My sister in law works at Cooper Hospital and she has mentioned being able to get Latino food. I'll ask her where she goes.

    22 Replies
    1. re: Philly Ray

      Cool. Thanks. I didn't pay attention to Tierra Colombiana. How is parking? Is it easy to find parking on the street? Or any parking garage nearby?

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Street parking isn't bad there. But check my reply again, you might be able to get some in Camden. What dishes are you looking for?

        1. re: Philly Ray

          I am right at the Ewing area, so I am close to Philly. :) I don't want any Latino food. I want Cuban. :P

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Well, there are similarities to Puerto Rican and Dominican food.

            1. re: Philly Ray

              :) Yes, but I am not looking for Mexican foods. I love Mexican foods, but I just want to try something different, ya know.

                1. re: Veggo

                  I doubt there is any Garifunia restaurants in my area. Man, you are like try to me away from my Cuban foods... :)

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Au contraire, CK, I'm trying to guide you to them. They don't straddle the Delaware River...:)

                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Huh? Puerto Rican and Dominican food isn't Mexican and Mexican food is not Latino food.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Cubans are latino. And if you could eat for a day in Cuba, you would high-tail it to Calle Ocho in Miami for the "real deal" .

                1. re: Veggo

                  The other high end cuban inspired restaurant is Starr's Alma de Cuba. Their ceviche is quite good.

                  Frankly if you want authentic cubano food, fly to South Beach...

          2. re: Philly Ray

            +1 for Tierra Colombiana. The neighborhood really isn't that bad (it looks way more sketchy than it really is). As for parking, there's on street parking and you can park in the parking lot of the pharmacy across the street. As for the restaurant, it's fairly nice inside, not sketchy at all, and the food is terrific - very authentic (or so I'm told). And the prices \ portion sizes can't be beat.

            1. re: gwebber

              Thanks for another suggestion for Tierra Colombiana. Do Philly Ray and you have one or two dishes for recommendation?

              <The neighborhood really isn't that bad >

              I am not that concern. Afterall, I have been to tougher neighborhoods like Oakland and Trenton. When I wrote that I am looking for a friend environment, I was thinking about the staffs and the restaurant itself.

              <you can park in the parking lot of the pharmacy across the street>

              You sure that my car won't get towed?

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                We've never had any problem with street parking around TC. The drinks there are great. Have a mojito. For the Cuban part of the menu, most of the classics are good--ropa vieja, picadillo, arroz con pollo. Portions are huge and on the salty side, but good solid food. I also love the aranitas appetizer--the dipping sauce is delicious!

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I've parked there many times and never had any problem. But like another poster said, street parking shouldn't be too much of a problem. I'm usually there on the weekends when there seem to be more cars around, and I'm a bit lazy about the looking-for-parking thing, so I usually just make a bee-line for the parking lot ;)

                  1. re: gwebber

                    <I usually just make a bee-line for the parking lot>

                    Good to know there is a parking lot around -- just in case I cannot find parking spot on the street. Yes, like you, I will most likely go there on weekend. Weekdays will be very difficult because I don't live close.

                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    You can also try their sister restaurant Mixto at 11th and Pine.

                    1. re: maraki

                      I found Mixto to be a bit pricier with smaller portions, but that's Center City.

                      1. re: Philly Ray

                        I prefer Alma de Cuba but think that Cuba Libre is pretty good. Mixto is OK but the tres leches there is decent.

                      2. re: maraki

                        I don't eat there as much anymore, but 2003-2006 I lived at 7th and Pine, and Mixto was one of my favorite restaurants then. still liked it the last few times I was there.

                        1. re: Bob Loblaw

                          <last few times I was there.>

                          That would be like: years ago or weeks ago?

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            since '06 i've probably been there 3 times, maybe 4.
                            i'm guessing it's a little over a year since my last visit.

                2. Thanks guys. I think I will either go to Tierra Columbiana or Mixto this coming weekend. I can find the Mixto website and menu, but I cannot find anything for Tierra Columbiana. Mixto is in Center Philly, right? For Tierra Columbiana, is there anything around there which I can hang out before or after lunch (assuming I am going there for lunch).

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Mixto is at 12th and Pine in Center City. Was not ethralled by their ropa vieja if it helps...

                    1. re: bluehensfan

                      <Was not ethralled by their ropa vieja >

                      Hmmm..... Hmmm. Thanks.

                        1. re: barryg

                          Thanks. Actually, I have no problem getting Mixto website as mentioned earlier.

                          <I can find the Mixto website and menu, but I cannot find anything for Tierra Columbiana>

                          It is Tierra Columbiana I have trouble with.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Oops sorry. Here is the TC website:

                            It's linked to at the bottom of the Mixto site.

                            I wouldn't attempt to hang out in the neighborhood before or after TC though exploring some of the Latino shops a little farther north might be interesting. I'd avoid the bars. There is a nightclub above TC, it's the kind of place with a metal detector and pat-down prior to entering.

                            1. re: barryg

                              Thanks. Wow, how did you find the link? :)

                              <I wouldn't attempt to hang out in the neighborhood before or after TC>

                              That dangerous?!

                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          And the pernil rostisado was mediocre too. Our server said that we should've tried the arroz con pollo and empenadas if it helps!

                          1. re: bluehensfan

                            Thanks Bluehensfan. That is helpful. Just to be sure. We were talking about Mixto, right?

                            Arroz con pollo is good, but it seems a bit too standard and that I have had it just recently. I will try to avoid ropa vieja and pernil rostisado then.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              A cuban resto that cannot deliver a good ropa vieja would not be in business for long.

                              1. re: Veggo

                                I am getting really mixed feeling now. Some here said that Mixto is great, but according to bluehensfan, it has problems for multiple dishes. I am also concern about Tierra Colombiana as well, since Tierra Colombiana and Mixto are sister restaurants.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  You are a scientist- cast away the high and the low, and consider what remains.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Ha ha ha. I see what you mean in your previous response. I thought it could be interrupted either ways but wasn't sure if that is what you meant -- either the restaurant dish as the questionable or the response as the questionable.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      I was indeed talking about Mixto. We tried the two aforementioned dishes for brunch and both were meh at best. And even of the two the pernil was better! As I said before the tres leches was pretty good though. I do think that Mixto is a step below Cuba Libre and a few below Alma De Cuba IMO. And even some of the things at both of the latter places seem just so-so as well. I think the real problem here is that Philly is not a Cuban food destination. But, if you pick and choose wisely you can get a very good meal.

                                      1. re: bluehensfan

                                        <I do think that Mixto is a step below Cuba Libre and a few below Alma De Cuba IMO>

                                        I will definitely keep this in mind. Thanks.

                                        1. re: bluehensfan

                                          I agree with this -- my experiences at Mixto and TC were fun (TC is very fun with a group and a refreshing change from the Center City/NoLibs/South Philly scene) but the food was not stellar at either. I haven't been to Cuba Libre since the menu/chef changeover but my only complaint previously was that the mojitos were sweet to the point of being undrinkable. Brunch is supposed to be really good there.

                                          Alma de Cuba I only went once several years ago, it was enjoyable but like most Starr restaurants the atmosphere/scene seemed to take precedence over the food. I remember the ceviche being a standout.

                                          1. re: barryg

                                            When we went to Cuba Libre recently we had brunch and some of it was really good (especially thr bread basket) while other things were mediocre at best. The fgood thing is that they have a $25 per person all you can eat deal where you can get just about anything on the brunch menu. They have fabulous tres leches there (but it costs extra for dessert). I think Cuba Libra has improved a lot since the chef from Pasion (whose name escapes me) started there.

                        3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          They don't seem to have a website (I think I ran into this before), but their menupages menu will give you an idea of what they have: I am not sure it's as large as the real menu (which ran for quite a few pages the last time I was there), but it'll give you a good idea of the prices and most of the menu:


                          I'm not sure about the neighborhood, but I don't recall there being many "hang out" type places around there. They do have a bar area, though it may not be open if you go for lunch. Good luck and let us know what you think!

                        4. Thanks everyone. I just came back from Tierra Colombiana. It was a 45 min drive, so it was a decent drive. I went by myself, and I parked at the RiteAid parking lot. In fact, the front door of Tierra Colombiana states that it is fine to park at RiteAid.

                          I ordered a Mango Mojito, Ropa Vieja, and Tres Leches. The Mango Mojito was good and I did not think it was overly sweet (a problem for Cuba Libre?) , the Ropa Vieja was also tasty and the portion size is good - not too big, and not too small. The rice was the most impressive part to me. It was done in perfection. The Tres Leches was good, but I didn't think it was much better than other places. Maybe I am just not a very good judge at Tres Leches.

                          The only small complaint I have is that I ordered the sweet plantain along with my Ropa Vieja, but was given avocado. I am pretty easy going with these sort of things. The restaurant was packed and the waiters and waitresses were running around. A honest mistake. The truth is that the avocado is healthier for me anyway. I told my waitress about the mistake, but also told her that it is not a problem at all.

                          So, the drink was good, the food was good, the service and atmosphere were excellent.

                          I will definitely go back. The question is: Should I go back to Tierra Colombiana next week or go to Mixto. Hmmm..... :D

                          Thanks everyone for their suggestions and insights.

                          1. Hey, I came back from Mixto. It has a very similar menu as Tierra Colombiana -- as expected This time I had the Pernil Rostisado (roasted pork) along with a mango smoothie. I wasn't terribly impressed by the smoothie. Maybe I should have gotten the vanilla ice cream addition version -- I think that was what I saw others had in Tierra Colombiana. Theirs look milky. The Pernil Rostisado was tasty and in large portion. I was full after finishing it. The only complaint I have is that it is a bit saltier than I would have liked. I have nothing against salt itself. I just think that salt is often a cheap and easy way to try to make a dish tastier, and it can often mask or diminish the true flavor of a perfectly fine dish. Another thing I have noticed is that the patrons are very different. Most of the Tierra Colombina patrons are Lations, while most of the Mixto patrons are Caucasians. The feels of the two restaurants are different too. Tierra Colombina has a lot of TV showing boxing matches or Mixed Martial Art matches. Mixto has the open restaurant setup with large glass windows ...etc.

                            I love both, and would love to alternative my future visits between the both. Mixto is probably more convenience, but Tierra Colombina is a bit cooler. Maybe I should try Cuba Libre next. Not sure.

                            Thanks guys.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              If you are looking for a unique experience at Cuba Libre, they are hosting a guest chef from Cuba during the week of June 18.

                              1. re: Philly Ray

                                Dumb question. What does a guest chef means from a practical sense? Does it mean the guest chef is a very chef? In other words, would I gain anything to go there in the week of June 18 as oppose to other weeks? Thanks.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  It is part of a series of what they are calling pop up "paladares". These chefs have restaurants in Cuba and have never been to the US before. They are preparing special fixed price menus for the week that they are here. We went to the first one earlier this year and enjoyed it.

                                  Here is a link to the restaurant website with more info and the menu for the week.