Jorge Castillo:  First, we have to tell you that we have a love-hate relationship with Nuevo Latino and "New Cuban" cuisine.

Raúl Musibay:  Mostly, we just hate it.

Jorge Castillo:  Not all of it. What we don't really like is a lot of the pretentiousness of the new cuisine.

Glenn Lindgren:  I think everyone agrees that those cuisines have their roots in traditional Cuban food.  What happened is that several chefs felt the need to reinvent Cuban cuisine to make it more hip and trendy.

Raúl Musibay:  And to allow them to charge a lot more for a plate of Cuban food!

Glenn Lindgren:  I guess the idea was to elevate traditional Cuban food – which tends to be simple and down to earth – to the level of haute cuisine. 

Cuba Libre Restaurant Interior
Jorge Castillo: At heart we are traditionalists when it comes to Cuban food. Some of the best dishes in Cuban cuisine come from the countryside, what we call criollo or "country style" food.

Raúl Musibay:These are the dishes that reflect the heart and soul of Cuba.

Jorge Castillo: We're not completely close minded. We do eat at some of the hip places occasionally, and just as occasionally we are pleasantly surprised by a dish or two that adds a new twist to one of the classics.

A lot of money was spent trying to capture the feel of Havana.

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar

Cuba Libre
Raúl Musibay: A lot of what they do here is very good, although by Miami standards the portions are on the small side and the prices are spendy.

Jorge Castillo: It's hard not to like a restaurant where the interior captures the beauty of a Havana street corner in the 1950s. The design creates a great atmosphere for eating, and on a hot August night with the front of the restaurant open to the night air, you can almost imagine yourself in pre-Castro Cuba.

Glenn Lindgren: We made an appetizer out of one of the entrees, the plato Cuba libre, which on this night includes a sampling of churrasco steak, a small mound of tender lechón asado, and camarones enchilados.

Raúl Musibay: The plate also included moros y cristianos, tostones, a couple of maduros, and a big pile of what appeared to be watercress.

Plato Cuba Libre
Jorge Castillo: As an appetizer for three it was a bit of a stretch, but for two it would work well. As an entrée, I would suggest it for a light eater.

Glenn Lindgren: Also good and beautifully presented was the Pollo al Ajillo, a plump chicken breast stuffed with chorizo and cheese. They pan roast it and serve it on a serving of mashed boniato with grilled chayote squash and breaded, deep-fried olives.

Raúl Musibay: The deep-fried olives are very tasty!

Jorge Castillo: Another good choice was the tamal tabueno, a dish that manages to marry all of the most popular Cuban starches – rice, ajiaco, calabaza, malanga, and plantains – in one dish. The Nuevo twist comes from the addition of brown crimini mushrooms and baby onions.

Plato Cuba Libre, which on this night includes a sampling of churrasco steak, lechón asado, and camarones enchilados.

HOURS: Lunch: Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | Dinner: Daily 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. | Late Dining: Friday & Saturday 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. | Tropical Brunch: Saturday & Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

PRICES: Ebtrees priced from $16.00 to $31.00.

BAR: Full

DRESS: Business Casual



El Churrasco
Pollo al Ajillo
El Churrasco, Cuba Libre's signature skirt steak.
Pollo al Ajillo, a plump chicken breast stuffed with chorizo and cheese.
Glenn Lindgren: The tamal is steamed in a banana leaf and the one we had was very moist and flavorful with a distinct coconut taste.

Jorge Castillo: Desserts for us included an inventive banana tres leches cake with a chocolate banana mousse. Personally, I could have done without the mousse – the cake itself was very rich and moist with a subtle banana flavor.

Raúl Musibay: The addition that did work is the slices of caramelized banana.

pudin de pan
Glenn Lindgren: I sampled the pudin de pan (bread pudding) served with a very light dulce de leche gelato and a hazelnut-praline crunch that really added a unique flavor and texture element to the dish. The bed of mango compote didn't work as well with the other flavors, although I'd love a dish of rich vanilla ice cream topped with this tangy fruit cooked in heavy syrup.
Raúl Musibay: They make a great mojito here and several tropical drinks. If you are a rum aficionado, they have some stellar rums, including a 21-year-old special reserve that is strictly for people on generous expense accounts!
The Details
Cuba Libre
10 S Second Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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