Cut into a row of commercial spaces on Main Street just before the intersection of Highway 92 is a little taste of Havana, Cuba.
As you approach the entrance to , you will immediately smell a spicy aroma — a mainstay of many Cuban kitchens; the ingredients of sofrito: sautéed onions, green peppers, garlic, oregano and ground black pepper, the base for many soups, stews, and cooked vegetables throughout the Caribbean, Cuba and Latin America. One whiff, and I was on familiar ground.
You must go for the iconic Cuban sandwich, voted the best in the South. This
sandwich was the street food item popularized by the cigar workers who had little time for lunch but needed a hearty meal to sustain them until they went home after a very long day’s work. The ingredients are “rib-sticking” slices of roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard all on the distinctively textured, lard-laden bread that is grilled much like a panini ($7.00). To be honest, normally I don’t like yellow mustard on my sandwiches, nor do I care for pickles in the mix, but there is something about the Cuban sandwich that makes it all work. Perhaps, its nostalgia, memories of the days
when my parents’ friends brought them to our house on those nights the grown-ups played dominoes to all hours of the night.
Much like restaurants in that part of the world, specials on the lunch menu are
generally singular in number and one-pot meals. On the day of my visit, the lunch special was Chicken with Rice (Arroz con Pollo), a heaping plate of spiced rice, green peas, stewed chicken and two sweet pieces of plantanos (fried plantains).
The menu is modest, but provides the visitor with the important dishes
representative of typical Cuban food — a creative fusion of Portuguese, African, Arabic and other Caribbean influences. The chef leads with the famous sandwiches like the Cuban I have already mentioned and the Media Noche, which is very much like the Cuban but served on sweet bread. The Media Noche, or midnight sandwich, is the late night nosh after a night on the town. Pork is very popular in Cuba and the Pan Con Lechon, a filling of shredded pork and grilled onions, is another iconic dish.
When one thinks of Cuban cuisine, black bean soup quickly comes to mind, and
there at La Rumba you will find it on the menu along with Empanadas and Tamales. There are six entrees of beef, pork and chicken prepared and served in typical Cuban styles. The prices range from $11-13 and are served with white rice, black beans or mor (beans and rice cooked together). Delight your sweet tooth with three tempting desserts: Tres Leches Cake, Mango Pie and Flan all for $4.00.
How about a walk down memory lane with “blast from the past” sodas like
Ironbeer, a popular drink amongst Cubans for over one hundred years; the Materva, a yerba mate energy drink; and Jupina, a pineapple based soda easily obtained in Miami and throughout Latin America. These are authentically yours for only $1.75.
The atmosphere is unpretentious with modest walls laden with black and white
pictures of Havana street scenes, and men fishing along the beaches. The customers seem to be regulars that enjoy the authenticity of the dishes and
happily interact with the owner/operator. The service was friendly and quick. When my meal was served, it was hot, inviting and very tasty.
There is something nice about the simplicity of Cuban cuisine. It is comfort food, warm and familiar. I’ll return for empanadas and black bean soup. They can count on that. If you go, enjoy the food, and “like” them on Facebook.