As a Latino, food is a major part of our culture. I remember while growing up my mother would cook huge pots of arroz con gandules (rice & peas) with some pollo or chuletas (Chicken or Pork Chops). Almost a staple meal in a Puerto Rican house hold. Growing up in New York, Latino culture and food are very much integrated in the diverse city. Unfortunately, in DC the Latino culture isn’t so integrated and it is very difficult to find a restaurant the cooks comida criolla (Puerto Rican Cuisine).
Well there is hope. There is a nice, upscale restaurant in DC called Cuba Libre. A franchise restaurant, until recently, I only knew existed in my travels to Atlantic City and Orlando. I partook in their restaurant week promotion but because of the wonderful food I strayed away from the restaurant week menu.
My dining experience began with butter toasted bread and a delicious mango butter spread, that I was encouraged (peer pressured) to try by the charismatic waitress. Am I glad I gave into her encouragement. The mango butter was so very good, rich, creamy with a hint of mango.
Shortly after, I had chicken empanadas (stuffed pastry turnover). Although they were not exactly like my family made them growing up, they were absolutely great. The nicely fried crust filled with its perfectly pulled chicken and cheese. So good that you could order a couple over a beverage of your choice or order them as a nice quick meal during lunch. Definitely a must if you decide to try this restaurant.
Then served on a bed of spinach and croquet, came the juiciest perfectly seasoned chicken breast that I have had in ages. My chicken was accompanied by white rice, Cuban black beans and some tostones (fried plantains). You could literally smell the seasoning and aroma of the food. Unfortunately the food was so good, I completely forgot to take a photo of it.
As any practicing Latino, I completed my dining experience with a slice of tres leches cake and a cup of café cubano (Cuban Coffee). The dining experience at Cuba Libre is second to none. The interior décor transports you Havanna with the sounds of Salsa in the area and comforting smell of the comida criolla. I recommend if you are ever in downtown, DC to stop in and grab a bite and enjoy our Latin culture.