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Every time Mike and I go down to Miami, we always make sure to get a good fix of Cuban food since Toronto is definitely lacking in that department. So, I was definitely ecstatic when I heard that the owners of the now-closed Delux announced they were opening up a Cuban diner.

La Cubana

La Cubana (@LaCubana_TO) opened up last fall on the Roncesvalles strip to plenty of fanfare. Mike and I finally dropped by for a casual Friday date night and the place was pretty busy – particularly on their cute patio located behind the restaurant.

The hostess informed us it would be a half hour wait for the patio but they had a free table inside the restaurant. Since we were starving, we chose to just sit inside. A word of warning though – it gets VERY hot and stuffy inside the restaurant with the open kitchen. Thankfully it was a cool evening so it was bearable but I can only imagine how uncomfortable it’d be on a sweltering day.

The open kitchen

I’m a big fan of the décor at La Cubana which has a retro diner feel to it. The floors were made of mosaic tiles and I particularly loved the mint green tiles which lined the walls and counter. The narrow restaurant features an open kitchen and counter seating in the middle of the space. Booths and tables fill the remainder of the space.

The interior

Given the neighborhood it’s located in, it’s no surprise that the restaurant is family-friendly. They even have separate kid menus for the little ones. It’s clearly a selling point as we saw plenty of families there with young children.

La Cubana’s (adult) menu is divided into several sections: Bocaditos aka appetizers ($5-$8), soups/salads ($5-$7), sandwiches/medianoches ($7-$9), Cuban plates ($15) and sides ($4).

La Cubana

As far as drinks go, they have a small selection of Cuban cocktails for $10 each, one beer (brewed specifically for La Cubana by the Junction Craft Brewing House) and several non-alcoholic options.

I went with something non-alcoholic, the Guava Fizz ($5). Light, refreshing and just what I was looking for.

Guava Fizz

Mike also opted for a juice cocktail, the Mango Colada ($5).

Mango Colada

We started off with an order of the Chorizo Empanadas ($7) which came with three small empanadas. While they were on the greasy side, they were pretty damn satisfying and well worth the calories. The chorizo filling had a nice kick and I loved the addition of the raisins which gave it a nice sweetness. The empanadas also came with a generous amount of aioli which complemented them perfectly.

Chorizo Empanada

After reading some great things about the Habanero Glazed Fried Squid ($7), we decided to go with an order of them. The crispy fried squid rings were coated in a sweet glaze which was missing the spice. I expected more of a kick but it turned out to be pretty mild. Overall, I thought the squid was good (despite the lack of spice) but I wouldn’t say it’s a must-order.

Habanero Glazed Fried Squid

For my main, I ordered the Guava BBQ Shortrib Medianoche ($9). A medianoche is a type of Cuban sandwich which uses a sweet milk bread. It’s similar to brioche but a little denser and held up very well against the heavy toppings.

The bun was topped with tender pieces of shortrib, fried onions, pickled red cabbage, crema and jalapenos. I loved the shortrib – particularly the delicious bbq sauce. It was no doubt a messy sandwich and for a small-looking sandwich, it certainly packs a punch. Loved it!

Guava BBQ Shortrib Medianoche

Mike went with the Molasses Roasted Pork Shoulder ($15). The portions certainly weren’t anywhere as large as the ones in Miami (like at El Palacio de los Jugos) but they’re still pretty filling.

The pork shoulder was tender and wonderfully moist but I found it a touch too salty (Mike thought it was fine though). All Cuban plates come with rice, beans, slaw and tostones, all of which were delicious. The addition of the cabbage slaw helped balance out the heaviness of the rest of the dish. Mike particularly enjoyed this dish and didn’t leave a crumb on his plate.

Molasses Roasted Pork Shoulder

Dessert offerings ($5 each) include mini donuts which were one of my favourites at Delux. We decided to try something new and ended up with the Key Lime Pie ($5). Arriving in a mini mason jar, it was topped with cream and a sprinkling of granola. It was a solid dessert but nothing particularly memorable. Next time, I’ll just stick to the donuts.

Key Lime Pie

Overall, we had an enjoyable meal at La Cubana – I’m still thinking about that shortrib medianoche. You’ll definitely find me back at this Cuban diner!

At a glance:
• A casual Cuban diner located in Roncesvalles
• Same owners as the now-closed Delux
• Gets very hot inside the restaurant from the open kitchen; not ideal on a hot day
• Nice patio at the back of the restaurant
• Family friendly
• Prices for mains range from $7 for a sandwich to $15 for the Cuban plates
• Favourites: chorizo empanadas and guava BBQ shortrib medianoche

Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: 3 stars

La Cubana on Urbanspoon

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