Jorge Castillo: With the demise of the original Café Havana, El Mesón restaurant is Minneapolis' last standard bearer of true Cuban food.
Glenn Lindgren: Unfortunately, it's not your typical Miami Cuban restaurant. A man from the Dominican Republic and his Swedish wife started this one! So the food has always been more Caribbean than Cuban. But thank God, there isn't any lutefisk or lefse on the menu!
Raúl Musibay: In 2004 the restaurant was purchased by Hector Ruiz and his wife Erin Ungerman. Hector was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Mexico, and learned to cook in the Twin Cities.
Glenn Lindgren: An accomplished chef, he has breathed new life into this south Minneapolis favorite. The result is more Latin and Caribbean than Cuban, but anyone who loves Cuban food will find a good eating experience here.
Glenn Lindgren: Another real treat is Croquetas Cubanas Cuban style shrimp croquetas served with habanero pineapple salsa.
Jorge Castillo: El Meson now offers a small selection of tapas dishes. My favorite is the Cantapalitos, grilled chorizo with artichoke hearts & sweet onions.
Raúl Musibay: The Zetas, mushrooms stuffed with gorgonzola, asparagus, and red peppers are also delicious.
Glenn Lindgren: For entrees, El Meson has always been known locally for their paella. It's a decent, though pricey, rendition for two that takes 45 minutes to an hour to prepare. If you can't get your companion to go in on the paella with you, (or you just can't wait that long) try something similar, but strictly seafood: the arroz con mariscos (rice with seafood) is a generous helping of tender shrimp, crabmeat, calamari, mussels, and fish chunks.
Jorge Castillo: For a real departure from traditional Cuban, I really like the Pollo Jamaiquino, a spicy chicken curry dish with mushrooms, onions, red peppers, green peas and garlic.
Raúl Musibay: I was excited to find corvina on the menu, a fish that is very popular in Peruvian restaurants. Here it's served over a bed of over a coconut risotto with sautéed greens, cherry tomatoes, in a ginger curry sauce topped with a pineapple salsa a real fusion dish!
Jorge Castillo: The arroz con pollo is a very Cuban rendition.
Glenn Lindgren: We've always enjoyed the lunch buffets here. The food is freshly prepared and includes a good selection of dishes. If you are still getting your Latin food feet wet, the buffet is a good place to sample several different dishes in one sitting.
Jorge Castillo: One added benefit to evening dining is some great live Latin music. On Fridays, the floor rumbles with the beat of Spanish Flamenco.
Raúl Musibay: There are only two desserts that we can recommend, a mango crème Brûlée (crema catalana) and the restaurant's signature coconut flan. Both dishes are rich and satisfying, the perfect ending to a great Latin meal.
HOURS: Monday through Wednesday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. | Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. | Friday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. | Saturday: noon to 10:00 p.m. | Sunday 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
PRICES: Most entrees between $13.00 and $19.00. A good lunch special buffet: $9.95.