I was motoring along Colonial Drive the other day when I spotted a new restaurant, Cuba 1800’s, so I decided to take a step back in time and have lunch.
Actually, I can’t really see the difference between this place and similar restaurants specializing in Cuban cuisine. But I can tell you I liked the food very much. And the casual picnic-style atmosphere. And especially the way I was welcomed by the staff of Cuba 1800’s.
And before my copy editor friends come after me, yes, I know that the apostrophe in the name is mechanically incorrect, but that’s the way the restaurant has it so that’s what I’m going with.
And besides, with food this good I’m willing to forgive them for being too possessive.
Cuba 1800’s serves cafeteria style. It isn’t immediately clear, nor is it intuitive, but the line forms not at the end closest to the entrance but at the back of the restaurant.
There are myriad meats, rices, beans and other accouterments to choose among. I told the young woman what items I wanted and she scooped them up into a takeout container. And such huge scoops that I didn’t think the lid would close.
I chose congris, the blend of rice and black beans, with roast pork as my meat. The server was carefully choosing meat that didn’t have skin attached when I told her that the chicharron was fine with me. She looked surprised that I would want the skin, but then smiled and grabbed a pair of scissors. Before she snipped some off she tapped the scissors on the pork skin so I could hear how crisp it was. We both smiled.
I also got some boiled yuca. And a tamale, just because.
My meal, which came with a beverage that I grabbed out of the self-serve cooler, came to $9.90, which has to be some sort of by-the-pound bargain. I was surprised I was able to carry it without assistance to one of the colorful picnic tables that sit under the ceiling paddle fans.
The chicharrones were indeed crisp and chewy, with little bits of fat still attached. The rest of the pork was moist and well seasoned. I liked that the cassava wasn’t too garlicky.
The tamale was good, though it might have had a bit more meat inside the well-steamed cornmeal. But I wasn’t lacking for protein in my lunch.
I of course couldn’t eat it all, and as I was leaving with my container, now much lighter but with still enough for one or two meals later, the young woman who had served me called me over and put the box in a bag and offered utensils. And then she thanked me for coming.
A very pleasant experience start to finish.
Cuba 1800’s is at 8700 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. There is no website. The phone number is 407-270-4707.