When we read that El Oriental de Cuba had been firebombed in July 2005, we feared the worst. Could this popular Boston eatery have any hope of rebuilding?

El Oriental has come back better than ever with a newly remodeled restaurant that is bigger and fancier than the original. However, El Oriental has resisted the temptation of "going Hollywood" and remains true to its simple roots – owner Nobel Garcia and his staff still serve the best Cuban sandwich in Boston and a whole lot more.

The restaurant reopened in the fall of 2006, and judging by the crowd on a recent Saturday night, has regained it's loyal following.

Jorge Castillo: You would think with all of the Hispanic people in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood outside Boston they'd have more than one Cuban restaurant.

Glenn Lindgren: At least, they could have a larger Cuban restaurant.

Raúl Musibay: The El Oriental de Cuba is a small, but popular place.

Glenn Lindgren: It's no surprise that there's frequently a wait here for a table.

Jorge Castillo: However the food is well worth waiting for. They do a brisk take out business for lunch with some great Cuban sandwiches.

Always busy behind the counter at El Oriental.

El Oriental de Cuba Restaurant

Glenn Lindgren: For something more substantial, try the pollo a la parilla, a tender roasted chicken quarter that is served smothered in sweet onions.

Jorge Castillo: One dish here that you don't see often in Miami: arroz con gandules or rice with pigeon peas. It is typically a Puerto Rican dish, but I do remember eating it in Cuba. The dish is flecked with bits of smoked ham and chorizo with just the right taste of green pepper, onion, and garlic.

Glenn Lindgren: El Oriental de Cuba makes a very picante Arroz con Calamares (rice with squid). The extra kick gives the squid a nice flavor. The Chicharron de Pollo is a generous serving of lightly breaded chicken chunks. The Rabo Guisado (oxtail), a popular dish in Spanish restaurants is well prepared here.

Jorge Castillo: They also do a rendition of Bacalao con Papas, salt cod prepared with potatoes in caserole. If you like liver, I recommend the Higado a la Italiana, an Italian style preparation with onions and green peppers.

Glenn Lindgren: Enchilado de camaron con mofongo is the typical seafood in a tomato-based creole sauce, but here served on top of a plate of mofongo, or fufu – a delicious combination of mashed plantain and bits of crisp pork...

Raúl Musibay: ... and plenty of garlic!

Glenn Lindgren: For the tourist, El Oriental de Cuba is probably a hard-to-find restaurant that is off the beaten trail.

Raúl Musibay: But if you crave Cuban food in Boston, the place is worth the trip.

Glenn Lindgren: Check out their great rendition of rabo – braised oxtail – on Friday and Saturday nights only!

Jorge Castillo: Where else can you get a fresh glass of guarapo de caña in Boston?

Glenn Lindgren: If the day is hot, try a thick rich batido – they have all the Cuban favorites: papaya, mango mamey, guanabana, tamarindo, vanilla, piña, coco, and trigo.

Jorge Castillo: Or try a Mexican horchata, also on the menu at El Oriental.
The Details

HOURS: Monday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. | Friday and Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. | Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

PRICES: Dinner entrees: $11.00 to $18.00

DRESS: Casual



El Oriental de Cuba
416 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

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