Where to Find the Best Cuban Restaurants around Boston Right Now
Here’s where to go when it’s time for tostones or a refreshingly minty mojito.
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If you’re looking for a fantastic Cuban sandwich, there’s no shortage of shops in Boston happy to oblige. But what about when you’re craving the soul-warming spices in a heap of picadillo or the sublime, caramelized sweetness in a mound of maduros? There are fewer options around town that focus more fully on Cuban food, but when a heaping plate of ropa vieja is calling your name, here’s where to find some Pearl of the Antilles-inspired spots that really shine.
The cuisine at this Roxbury restaurant and lounge is as bold and varied as the mojito list—which is to say, very. After all, there are dozens of refreshing rum- and mint-anchored libations, spiked with everything from mango puree to chopped jalapeños, that will have you hitting up the outdoor patio anytime you’re wander-lusting for a trip to the tropics. (That patio is also the perfect place to enjoy an eye-opening horchata cocktail over brunch.) Food-wise, meanwhile, you’ll find everything from starters of mini Cubanito sandwiches to a beautiful fried whole snapper and other mains made even more tantalizing with garlicky sofrito sauce, citrus-spiked mojo, and more. Feeding a whole family? Spring for the slow-roasted whole suckling pig, which comes with rice, cassava, and plantains.
11 Melnea Cass Blvd, Roxbury, 617-708-0796, donahabanarestaurant.com.
El Orientale de Cuba
With its rich stews and plates piled high with braised oxtail and other delights, El Orientale has been whisking palates away to the sunny shores of the island nation since 1994. Speaking of coastal cuisine: Here you’ll dive in to an absurdly filling black paella overflowing with clams, cuttlefish, mussels, scallops, and shrimp. You can make a full meal of just the appetizers, too—say, the mixed-seafood ceviche that zings with lime juice, the perfectly crisped ham or chicken croquettes, and the mofongo that expertly calibrates a savory-sweet balance between fried mashed green plantains and pork rinds. Check out the rotating daily soup specials, too, and make a point end every meal with an order of fantastically silky flan.
416 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-524-6464, elorientaldecuba.net.
Gustazo Cuban Kitchen & Bar
“Gustazo” means “great pleasure” in Spanish, and that’s exactly what you’ll feel at this pair of Cuban restaurants in Cambridge and Waltham, where the focus is on shareable (and super-craveable) small plates: Must-tries include the empanadas, crispy pockets of pastry dough stuffed with beef picadillo, and the mussels in a rich and creamy chorizo sauce that gets sopped up with local-baked Iggy’s Bread. There are a few larger dishes, too, including standouts like grilled ribeye with smoked jalapeño chimichurri and slow-roasted pork served with charred onions, rice and beans, and maduras. Not one to put pork on your fork? Behold the stellar selection of vegetarian options, including roasted cauliflower topped with manchego cheese and pistachios, as well as garbanzo beans with almond sofrito.
2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 240 Moody St., Waltham, 855-487-8296, gustazo-cubancafe.com.
According to the minds behind COJE Management (the same team behind Lolita, Yvonne’s, and Ruka), their glitzy hotspot Mariel takes its cues from the “faded elegance” of pre-Cuban Revolution Havana: The mix of weathered-looking murals, plush banquettes, and big planters filled with palm fronds certainly do lend to a chic and buzzy scene in non-pandemic times. You won’t just come from the scene, though. There’s a strong menu of contemporary Cuban-inspired cuisine, including snacks of pork empanadas and yucca cheese puffs; shareable plates like the can’t-miss steak churrasco with spicy aji picante sauce; and Cuban street pizzas—including the Cubano, which reimagines the classic sandwich in pie form and adds gruyere, scallion, and cilantro to the mix.
10 Post Office Square #120, Boston, 617-333-8776, marielofficial.com.
The Old Havana
This snug spot in JP hones in on traditional, home-style plates. The fine list of sandwich standbys—including a stellar steak offering with plantain chips and mojo sauce—are a fine way to grab a quick lunch without sacrificing rich, slow-cooked flavors. Seafood shines here, too, including the salmon a la plancha, fiery shrimp “a la diabla” with steamed vegetables and yellow rice, and seafood gumbo sopped up with a side of crusty bread. You could find a feast in the appetizers and side dishes alone, with plenty of examples of plantain-based perfection: See the smashed and fried discs of tasty goodness that are the tostones, as well as the flavor-bomb maduros, or fried sweet plantains.
349 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-477-4248, theoldhavanajp.com.