A Taste of Cuba

March 2012

So few Americans have had the pleasure of walking the streets of Havana, soaking up its sights, sounds, and aromas. Thirteen years ago, my husband and I had the good fortune to do just that. It was a life-list experience that, at 20 years old, we checked off with glee. Although it was more than a decade ago, I still remember the smell of the Cohiba cigar factory, the sight of still-running, ’50s-era Fords, and the taste of a meal cooked by a Cuban family we met on our first day there.

The memories of that lunch came flooding back this past weekend when we visited Frijoles Colorado Cuban Cafe, a six-month-old eatery in Lakewood. Proprietors Sergio and Roxanne Negrin reminded us of our jovial Cuban hosts, whose kindness and eagerness to chat has remained in our minds longer than their names. The spare but aromatic space—located between a Starbucks and a dental office—has a bright but mostly functional decor with about 20 seats that we compared to many of the homes and eateries we visited in Havana. But it was the food that really brought us back to that small island nation.

Yes, Frijoles has a top-notch Cuban—a ham, Swiss, and roast pork sandwich with mustard and pickles served on house-baked bread. The eatery also boasts a tasty pork sandwich (pan con lechon) with caramelized onions that really sings with a few dashes of habanero hot sauce. And you can’t go wrong with a cup of the black bean soup. But for a true taste of Cuba, order the lechon, moro y yuca. This plato diario (pictured) comes as a platter filled with pulled pork, a mound of black beans and rice, and a mash-up of caramelized onions and tender yucca. It’s Cuba—served on a plate. Quick tip: Don’t forget to order a side of platano maduros or sweet plantains.

12095 W. Alameda Parkway, Unit 4-B, Lakewood, 303-716-4587