We go a decade with one Cuban restaurant. Then within three months, we have three. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, little Carlito’s Cuban Cabana truly admired the path cleared by Rancho Alegre’s Juan Manuel Rodriguez. Still, there’s certainly room for more, and Carlito’s (from the same folks who bring us Carlito’s Mexican Bar and Grill) fills a niche downtown. Its convenient location on Whitaker Street (In the former Sushi Zen or Blue Goose Cafe, depending on how closely you paid attention) oughta be a hit with walkers looking for quick service, good value and rib–sticking chow.
I was joined for lunch with my three amigos and we all had a different take.
The Cuban sandwiches earned a barely passing grade of “C” for spartan fillings and overly large Hoagie–style buns. We all liked the sampler platters with its plump and tasty pork tamale, a pair of ham croquettes, a duo of ground beef empanadas and a stack of crispy chicharitas – fried plantains sliced like potato chips and served with an eye–opening mojo salsa. My Chicarrones de Pollo – lightly battered, fried chicken white meat portions – were a safe bet and delivered without unexpected results. The breading was nice – a kinda extra crispy expression – and the chicken was hot, tender and moist. Yellow rice and black beans are staples on a plate of Cuban food and Carlito’s is no exception. Both were nicely seasoned and well made...no complaints. A quartet of fried plantains were equally tasty and perfectly prepared. My lunch portion was $8 – and I couldn’t eat it all.
In all, it’s a big menu with lots of options – and another addition to the little joints popping up within a couple of steps from the bustling Broughton Street corridor. Parties of four or more are pushed upstairs – where I’m surprised the city has continued to allow the under 7–foot ceiling height to be “grandfathered.”
41 Whitaker St./232–0009
It’s THIS close...
Jeffrey from Circa 1875 called last week to tell me that, barring another challenge from the city’s permit department or inspectors, the long awaited Circa 1875 bistro should open to the public around the weekend of July 10. “Speed kills” could have been the motto for the restaurant partners, who took their time (nearly three years) getting open.
Frankly, I think it was a good idea, although anticipation from regulars has slowed to the point where it’s been like watching ketchup pour. Seriously, the team promises a French bistro–style menu, affordable prices and a cool place to hang, dine and people watch.
48 Whitaker St./443–1875
Carlito's Cuban Cabana