The first thin
g you’ll probably notice about Tino’s Cuban Bistro is that it isn’t particularly Cuban. Glance over the menu and you’ll see such items as Tino’s Italian sub, corned beef on rye, meatloaf and fried chicken. (That last item may be a nod to the Maryland Fried Chicken franchise that previously occupied the space.)
A closer look at the entrees will reveal some Cuban regulars, such as boliche, ropa viejo and picadillo, but they’re really outnumbered. Look only at the breakfast menu with its “country boy” and “hungry man” specials and three-egg omelettes and you’d never know the restaurant has a Cuban bent.
But taste the Cuban sandwich and you’ll agree that someone has an appreciation for doing the iconic lunch staple right. The ham, roast pork, swiss cheese and pickles were there, amply stacked, and pressed so the Cuban bread had a slight crispness. But it was the slather of yellow mustard that gave it a distinctive tang. The sandwich was accompanied by a small bowl of black beans with a bit of rice and topped with chopped onions. Pretty good beans, I must say.
I was less taken with the ropa vieja I had on another visit. Nothing technically wrong with it, really, at least in terms of its execution, but neither was there anything noteworthy.
And breakfast was done nicely. Good eggs, tasty home fries -- what else do you need on a Sunday morning?
The space has been transformed into a comfortable space using “decorating on a budget” sorts of techniques. The counter where one used to order greasy chicken has been converted to a bar, a long one but with only five stools. The tops of the booth tables seem to have been given an acid treatment that gave them an auburn patina as well as an eaten-away texture. The floor, which looks as though its origins might have been terrazzo, appears to have been similarly treated. Windows have roll-up shades, and swag of fabric here and a wall decoration there add subtle touches to the ambience. And for those who appreciate such things -- I am one of them -- free wi-fi is available.
And you’ll find the staff accommodating and welcoming. And prices are excellent. Even on the dinner menu you'll find most entrees under $10. Tino’s may be a Cuban Bistro in name only, but it’s a charming little cafe in any language.
Tino’s Cuban Bistro is at 3500 Curry Ford Road, Orlando. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-228-0060. There is no Web site.