Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Leaving Havana, Finding Havana

Certifiably Crazy Aunt was married to a Cuban man for many years. He was one of many in the 60's who went through a dramatic exit from the island to reach Miami. Cuban Uncle was the first to teach me Spanish. During our Spanish lessons he talked alot about his homeland, so much so that I decided then Cuba was one place I never needed to visit.

For some reason, in recent years, my group of friends have become obsessed with travel to Cuba. They all claim its the island envirnoment that attracts. I have to call BS on that since there are plenty of other islands in the Caribbean, yet they have no interest in them. Who knows why they go, maybe its the element of danger, whatever.

I get my Cuban experience in Miami, and more recently in Dallas. I met a family a couple of weeks ago that took advantage of Castro's "down time" to exit Havana. I didn't get a clear answer of why they chose Dallas but I'm glad they did since they opened up this place.

Caribbean Cafe
1000 Webb Chapel Rd @ Belt Line
Carrollton, TX 75006
(972) 418-7071

There are other Cuban restaurants in Dallas but this one is authentic and unlike the others, there is no glitz here. Webb Chapel is the saddest and loneliest major street in town; there just isn't any part of its stretch from NW Highway to where it dead ends at Belt Line that calls out, "Come Visit Me". Caribbean Cafe is located at the nothern-most end of the sad street, where there is absolutely nothing else.

Inside is pleasant but minimal. What will impress you isn't visual however, its the smell of plantains, spicy black beans and of course, the national meat of Cuba, pork!

Server Girl was a beautiful girl in her early twentys. She was so happy to see Big Mike and I since she wanted desperately to pratice her English and their patronage since opening 4 months ago has been strictly Spanish speaking. I, of course, wanted to practice my Spanish so I made a deal with her, we would alternate languages. She liked that.

The menu here is fairly large for Cuban fare but some of the option have been placed for a distinctly Anglo palate, avoid those. Stick with the Cuban meals like Ropa Vieja, its delicious! If you've never heard of Ropa Vieja, its a slow roasted, shredded beef in a garlicky tomato sauce, smothered in sauteed onion and bell peppers.

Dinners are good-sized so try not to eat the whole basket of garlic toast that will come out initially. Dinners come with configuration options: you can get your plantains either ripe-sweet-n-fried or unripe-salty-n-hard. I've never cared for hard bananas (careful! :) so I usually opt for the ripe ones. You can also choose to have your obigatory black beans separated from your obligatory white rice or you can have both mixed together into one big purple blob of carbs.

I think the "Dallas people" will leave this place alone since it isnt a place to see or be seen, which works out well for me since I need a place to go where I don't have to listen to their smack.

Big Mike, he likes it.


Blogger ScottyFerguson said...

Awww your post remined me to call my cuban ex and check on him. There ain't nothing better than a home cooked cuban meal.

4:44 PM

Blogger Jason said...

Sounds great. Reminds me of a place here in Phoenix called the Havana, Cafe. I love it, and must now grab the cronies and take in some great Caribbean dishes.

Into the ripe banana vs. hard ones, eh? O.K., I won't touch that one since you already did ;)

How cute is Big Mike!

7:37 AM

Blogger Jim said...

I know Scotty, Cuban food is the best. I find myself coming home, looking in the fridge then craving something from this place. Fortunately its far enough away to prevent an impulse drive :)

7:39 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Im gald youhave a Cuban option in PHX, Jason. Oh, and I knew someone would touch the hard v. soft banana :)

(Yes, BM is cute)

7:47 AM

Blogger john said...

I know some people who are obsessed with wanting to travel to Cuba also. I wonder what it is that calls tourists.

9:12 AM

Blogger purpletwinkie said...

MMmmm Scott likes Cuban food.

And plantains are ok, but I'll take a full-sized, firm banana any day. Size Queen, that's me.

9:25 AM

Blogger Jim said...

I'm not sure John. I thini is element of being "bad" by going to Cuba.

12:09 PM

Blogger Jim said...

LOL Scott, I knew you would bring up the size difference :)

12:16 PM

Blogger Derek said...

I love me some cuban, food, and men!

6:28 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Oh yeah Derek, that right, the Cubanos arent bad either :)

8:02 PM


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