>> Cafe Cuba & Cakes | Eat the World Los Angeles

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Cafe Cuba & Cakes

CUBA 🇨🇺
Hawthorne Blvd. facade

COVID-19 UPDATE: The restaurant is fully open for indoor dining.

Whether it has been vandalized or oxidized, the signage on fast-paced Hawthorne Blvd. is almost impossible to read, allowing this long-running Hawthorne favorite to hide in plain sight. You probably would not get a whiff of the glorious breads being made in the back while at full speed down the boulevard either unfortunately. It takes a friend's suggestion to find your way here, and one look at the families and groups that you will see eating together is proof of that.

If you take your meal at one of the well-spaced tables inside, you will see people walking out with multiple bags of 40 cent bolillos, Cuba's staple bread loaf, and if you peek into the back kitchen you will see rolling bakery carts with many trays of breads and sweets. If you do not make your own cubanos at home, make sure to save some space for dessert or just come for coffee and a pastry since it is obvious the bakery is doing so well.

Media noche sandwich

This is also all the more reason to order one of their many sandwiches, of which they have all the favorite Cuban options like pan con bistec, milanesa, lechon and of course the cubano itself. If you prefer the medianoche ($11.95, above), the same sandwich ingredients as a cubano but on a sweet egg-y soft bread, you will be impressed by the one here. This is pressed in the toaster just like the others, creating a crispy top and making sure the insides are nice and close.

What makes this one of the best Cuban sandwiches in town is the perfect ratio of ingredients and pickly-ness. If someone compares this to a ham and cheese sandwich, they deserve a slap in the face. Despite having both of those items, the keys to a delicious cubano or medianoche are the juicy pernil, which is excellent here, and a layer of crisp pickles.

Boliche (Cuban pot roast) served with moro and tostones

Moving on from the bread and bakery related dishes, having full meals here is rewarding simply because they make a very delicious sofrito. More than a spice or a sauce, sofrito is the foundation of a Cuban home kitchen and is an assortment of always aromatic ingredients and spices that are sauteed together with cooking oils to use as a base. Many of the platos here (served with rice and beans, plantains, and bread) have meats served with sofrito, so whether you are in the mood for oxtails, pork, beef or chicken, plan to enjoy every bite.

While you are likely to find ropa vieja at any restaurant calling itself Cuban, the beef pot roast of this island nation called boliche ($18.95, above) is much more rare because it requires a very talented chef. Thick slices of eye round look dry and tough at first glance but are perfectly tender and juicy. Some slices are stuffed with olives and chorizo in the center like you often see with this dish, but the good cuts of beef and wonderful sofrito would be enough to satisfy on their own.

Costillas de puerco served with black beans, white rice, and maduros

All the platos have a choice between white rice and black beans and moro, as well as tostones or maduros, so get two options to have all four of these things simultaneously. There is no weak link. You also get a half piece of toasted bolillo with these as well, especially useful to make sure no drop of sofrito goes wasted on the bottom of a plate.

The costillas de puerco ($16.95, above) are just as satisfying as the boliche, big pork ribs also living in the sofrito. These are again cooked by someone who knows very well what they are doing and have the comforting taste of many decades of experience somehow. Every bite of these and the pork-y black beans that are a must order are a full taste of Cuba.

Pastelito de guayaba y queso

Hopefully you have room for one of their delicious pastelitos before you leave, but even if you have stuffed yourself silly take some home for later or tomorrow morning with your coffee. The pastelito de guayaba y queso ($1.35, above) has the perfect ratios of guava paste (which you can also buy a block of!) and cheese. The flaky bread around it all is made with skill as expected.

Cubans and Cuban cuisine lovers in Hawthorne are very lucky to have a place like this nearby, but honestly it is also worth driving to from wherever you live if the cravings creep up. From coffee and a bolillo in the morning to a large round of platos fuertos at lunch and dinner to the end of the night with that medianoche, this restaurant is doing everything right.

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