Coming to Chinatown(ish) – Cuba Libre

Cuba Libre will be located at 9th and H Streets, NW across from the old Convention Center. They have a few locations in other cities and describe themselves:

“The tantalizing tastes of Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar are based upon the culinary traditions of this storied island paradise. Inspired by the cuisines of various Latin regions, Cuban cuisine offers a mix of robust and soul-satisfying dishes. Cuba Libre’s carefully created menu combines beef, poultry, pork and seafood with exotic fruits and vegetables, herbs and seasonings. The contemporary cuisine is flavorful and savory, but only occasionally spicy. In keeping with the gracious social character of Cuba, some dishes are designed for sharing. Concept Chef Guillermo Pernot regularly updates the menus, making seasonal changes while maintaining signature items.”

The are opening in Spring 2010. Think they’ll succeed at this location?

34 Comment

  • you know what sucks…Cuban food

  • Man I could really go for some ropa vieja, when does Spring 2010 get here exactly?

  • you know what sucks… trolls.

    I happen to love cuban food. Who doesn’t like double pork sandwhiches and picadillo? I wish there were more options for it in DC. Cubanos in silver spring is ok. The place in adams morgan is ok. And just about every tavern offers a weak Cubano sandwhich. But there are no stand outs for good cuban in DC. Ill check out this place even if it is a chain because there is a true void to be filled in dc.

  • I’ve been to their Atlantic City location. It’s what you might expect from a big chain, average food at above average prices, with a fun decor. Think Buca de Bebbo for Cuban food.

    • “Big chain”? They have all of 3 locations, two of which are in the Philadelphia area where it started up (I’m including Atlantic City since popular restaurants in Philly have started opening up locations there, like the Starr restaurants). Might as well say that Pizzeria Paradiso is just another Applebee’s.

  • What are the odds that this is NOT another “small plates” yupspot? If they actually serve you full portion sizes on one plate, they may succeed based purely on the novelty of that idea in that part of town.

    • I think the commenter who said the Bucca De Beppo of Cuban Food nailed it. I also expect there will be Salsa dancing at night.

  • Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville is the bomb. Obviously, not even really that close to D.C., but I was in the area a few weeks ago and enjoyed it.

  • I have been to the Philly location in Old City and it is great. Would highly recommend this place.

  • I love Cuban and Puerto Rican cuisine. I can’t want for this establishment to open. I sure hope they don’t have Salvadorans preparing the food instead of real Cubanos.

    I don’t like Salvadoran and Mexican cuisine.

    • So only indigenous people can cook indigenous food? I have to stop reading this blog before I just start banging my head against the wall. . .

      But then again – my captcha is “Dan soars” !!!

    • Ha! Hilarious! Don’t go to any five star restaurant in New York, Chicago, DC, LA or San Francisco – because those kitchens are filled with Salvadorans and Mexicans cooking your $50 steak and seared ahi.

  • Too bad they can’t offer real Cuban rum! That’s one nice thing about a vacay in the Caribbean…

  • There’s also one in the neighborhood right under the big clock tower in Richmond. It’s been there for at least 12 years. When I ate there, the food was okay, but nothing to write home about. You outta go to Hoboken for really good Cuban food.

    • That is Havana 59. Totally unrelated to Cuba Libre, unless you think all Cuban places are the same.

  • Very soon, when the island finally opens up we’ll have Cuban rum and Cuban cigars like we did 50 years ago, and maybe some better Cuban food choices here in Washington when Havana is much closer than by proximity.

    As for the first commenter, Anonymous 4:38, perhaps you had a bad first impression or bad first experience.

    Try a savory Cuban Picadillo with white rice and black beans, a Ropa Vieja dish of shredded beef shank slow cooked in a tomato criollo sauce, a Boliche beef roast stuffed with chorizo sausage and hard boiled egg, Bacalao (Cod Fish), Camarones Criollos, Rabo Encindido (Oxtail Stew), Carne con Papas, or a good Arroz con Pollo a la Chorrera.

    A Cuban sandwich with pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard heated on a Plancha (a panini-type press) with buttered real Cuban lard bread, or perhaps an Elena Ruz turkey sandwich, a Medianoche, Croqueta Preparada, or a Pan con Bistec or Pan con Lechon.

    Good soups include Caldo Gallego, Fabada stew, Tamal en Cazuela, Crema de Malanga, Ajiaco stew, and my favorite: a stew of chick peas, pork and cabbage called Cocido de Garbanzos.

    Good side dishes: Moros y Cristianos or Congris rice dishes, Yuca con Mojo (garlic sauce), Platano maduros (sweet plantains), or Tostones (green plantains), Fufu de Plantano, Puré de Malanga,

    Cuban Tasajo con Boniato is the most delicious Cuban pairing ever created and little known outside of Cuban communities of Tampa, Miami, and Northern New Jersey. Tasajo con Boniato is a delicious salt cured jerk beef served with Boniato -a tropical white sweet potato (Ipomoea Batatas).

    Besides the better known drinks of Mojito and Cuba Libre, try a savory tropical Batido de Mamey, and the best Egg Nog you’ll ever have is “Creme de Vie” -a Cuban Egg Nog made with Cream of Coconut.

    Unfortunately the choices in Washington are very few and not really well represented, that will change someday soon, but do not write it off and give Cuban food another try, Anonymous 4:38.

  • At this point, when I want Cuban I hold out for Kuba Kuba in Richmond. Great food and great neighborhood vibe. It’s too bad there isn’t an equivalent in DC, and this place doesn’t sound like it will fill that hole.

  • Seems like restaurant comments are really all about showing off. There is just nothing that complicated about a mojito! And there are plenty of good rums available. Beans and rice – pork sandwich – whatever any other ethnic/exotic food you can think of – mostly just isn’t that hard to make.

    Everyone nowadays has access to all spices & secrets of the world. It really comes down to quality of ingredients, not over-cooking the hell out of meat, and keeping things fresh.

    You like to think you’re in on the best “whatever” because you once visited the country and like to feel all worldly about it. That’s fine – but annoying.

    When someone posts praise for a fine nuanced haggis or witchetty grubs I’ll pay attention.

  • PoP must not have met the friendly US Mint security folks who will shoo you away if they see you taking pictures of that building. Cuba Libre is on the ground floor of US Mint HQ and taking pictures of federal buildings gets folks huffy and puffy these days.

  • I am not sure the bucca de beppo comments are quite on the mark; this ‘chain’ only has 3 locations (DC makes 4 I guess) and their website says they have a james beard award winning chef. I am not sure where they start to become a ‘chain’ but for now it seems like they are making a little more effort.
    Bucca cooks like your mom does – overcooked pasta, meatballs the size of a baseball, that junk. You (or at least I) go to restaurants to eat something made by a professional. Whether Cubans are cooking it seems irrelevant – small family run Chinese restaurants are pretty much the only ones where the chefs match the ethnicity of the cuisine they cook.
    Menus on their site look good; full size portions and some small plates/ceviches too.

  • I’ve been to the one in Philadelphia and it’s probably the best Cuban food I’ve ever had. Excellent decor, too – the architecture is almost as good as the food. The opening was supposed to be April, so I guess it’s been pushed back a bit. I hope the place doesn’t become too striped-shirty so I can make it a new go-to in that area.

  • I think who makes the food can have a huge influence on the quality of the end product. Have you ever had huevos rancheros or fajitas in Wisconsin? I have, and it sucks. You know why it sucks? Because the people making the food don’t know what it’s supposed to taste like. Culturally they don’t know what it takes to make it taste the way it should.

    You don’t put a vegetarian in charge of the meat packing plant and then ask him if the food is good. He has no clue.

    Similarly with these award wining chefs…if no one bothers to train the guys cooking the food, and in DC no one cares who’s cooking the food, then you get the best effort of someone who doesn’t really know or really care.

    Now this Cuban place could be amazing for the first 3-4 months, when it’s new and there’s a lot of management supervision, but eventually all these restaurants have a hard time maintaining properly trained staff and the food falls off in quality.

    • Retail food service is one industry where quality control and consistent delivery is tested every day on the palate of your local consumers.

      It’s quite a challenge, and success comes when there’s an investment and ongoing commitment in personnel as with the huge investment in this new construction and opening.

      You’re right, Ragged Dog, the quality of a multi city establishment food service is only as good as the crew on site.

      Shorter menus are usually better.

  • for quality, alma de cuba in phila.

    for atmosphere, cuban corner on rockville pike. you have to see the place.

  • I assure all of you, this place is awesome. It is not at all a chain. It is independently owened, and from what I hear from a friend of mine who is a manager in Philly they are well run and organized. The food is outstanding. I am very excited to get a Cuba libre closer to home.

  • This place has really good food and sick mojitos, the owner is a james beard award winner and knows how to run a restaurant. I had the seafood soup and the shrimp dish in Atlantic City and it was awesome. I hope they do well

  • I didn’t check the forecast, but it’s obviously hater weather today, ha.

    Cuban food is under-represented in the district, and I happen to like it. I think I’ll probably just give it a chance and try it before passing judgment.

    • Want a glass of hater-ade?! ahahaha

      Same here – I’m excited to try this place out! Currently the only place I frequent in the hood is Old Dominion; it’s a good place to kick back close to home and watch some sports, but it gets old after awhie. Glad to see 9th street getting some love! I’m loving what’s going on there now.

  • Alma de Cuba is definitely better, although I agree with Xi, best mojitos ever

  • ShawGuy, the reason why Cuban cuisine is under represented in D.C., there aren’t many Cubanos here. We have mostly Salvadorans/Central Americans. Where there’s a large Cuban population like Miami and Union, New Jersey, you will find plenty nice Cuban restaurants. The same goes for good Puerto Rican cuisine. You will find many places in New York City, Philadelphia, Jersey, Boston where there’s a large Puerto Rican population.

  • Puerta Sagua in Miami Beach is really good.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Don’t forget about the imminent arrival of DC’s newest food truck:

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