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Cubana Cafe: Cheap and Grimy Cuban, For Next to Nothing

For a student on a pretty tight budget, Cubana Cafe is a verifiable god-send. In a city of haute cuisine and sky-high prices, this tiny Cuban spot on Thompson and Prince is a cash-only dirt cheap oasis. Everything about the neighborhood establishment is simple: the food, the service, the drinks menu, the decor, and, most of all, the value. Cubana Cafe is simply a spectacular value.

The aquamarine storefront, sunflower yellow walls, salmon window frames, and baby blue tiled bar evoke the sultry and steamy heat of the Caribbean. Cuban kitsch is everywhere, from the candy-colored soda bottles lining the central column to the black-and-white photos of old Havana to the splashy tropical fruit tablecloths. A splotchy blackboard lists out the nights drink specials and wine options, while bottles of hot sauce sit in neat rows near the kitchen, just waiting to be dunked over quesadillas and rice. Soft Latin music tinkles in the background. The restaurant cumulatively seats no more than 30 with a mini bar offering up 5 more seats for solo diners and sangria seekers.

Surprisingly enough, the food at Cubana Cafe is not exactly authentic. It’s more pan-Latin with everything from crispy quesadillas (my favorite is the pork variety, stuffed with mole, black beans and melted cheese) to arroz con pollo to an over-stuffed poblano chile with shrimp and calamari, succulent pulled pork with starchy whipped plaintain and rich rioja wine gravy, and, of course, a classic Cuban sandwich. The food is simple and hearty, often starchy, and almost always under-salted. It’s rarely ever a work of art, and there’s certainly better Cuban out there. However, it’s so cheap and satisfying that salting it yourself and dousing it all in hot sauce seems like a small price to pay for a full meal and drink for under $15.

Cubana Cafe is casual and quiet, refreshingly inexpensive, and somehow still chic hole-in-the-wall. Although the food won’t blow your mind, the amount of money you’ll save will. Tired of overwrought New York dining experiences? Keep it simple at Cubana Cafe.

Perfect For: wallet-friendly eats, starving students, sangria seekers, a neighborhoody pre-game

Cubana Café on Urbanspoon

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