I felt like some cuban food, so on a rainy Thursday I headed down US1 to the Senor Cafe.
They have a counter in the front as well as a lunch buffet, which is $9.99. I prefer a table, and didn't want buffet food.
Some of the workers don't speak English; the hostess just tilted her head when she asked if I wanted the buffet. Shaking your head works.
This place is a like the Latin Bohemia Grill; I think there's a template for Latin Cafes. I ask for tea with lemon and they bring out limes without mentioning that they don't have lemons.
Bread comes out next. You have to eat it while it's warm before it turned into a piece of cardboard.
I ordered the full sized skirt steak, which is $16.95 and purports to be 16oz. They have an 8oz version for $12.95, which seems too much. Their lunch specials here are around $7.95.
They have 2 useless TVs and no recognizable music. The steak comes out in about 5 minutes. Everything happens fast here.
A pretty good haul, but not a mammoth steak. They put green olives in the rice which need to be picked out, but no plantains, thankfully.
No scrimping on the beans. This bowl was full of beans with very little liquid.
It wasn't the best steak I've had; a bit gristly. Cuban chimichurri isn't good, or at least I haven't found one. This stuff was didn't taste anything like the Argentinean stuff. Like they use onions instead of garlic or something.
I got a takeout box and took some of it home. $20 with tip. You can do better here; I think I'll stick to the Argentinean places for skirt steak.>
I had some parsley so I made some chimichurri last night. Add an egg and you have a Cuban Breakfast.
My experience tells me that the best ethnic restaurants are in ethnic neighborhoods, and not on Las Olas or at the beach. If you want good Cuban food, you'll have to go into neighborhoods where you might not normally go. Such is the area in between Hollywood and Hallandale; the US1 corridor that gets you from Young's Circle to Gulfstream Park.
Along that stretch is the Senor Cafe. "Best Cuban Food North of Miami" some say. I decided to find out for myself.
They have a patio outside, but it's not the nicest parking lot in the world, and there were a bunch of smokers. Inside, they have booths that are about 2 feet from the wall and a bunch of gray granite top tables. There's also a big, granite counter up front where you can eat if you're dining alone.
Senior Cafe Interior View
I sat in a booth and it took them quite a while to get me a menu. You "seat yourself" and then wait for someone to notice you.
The atmosphere holds some surprises.
Senor Cafe Dining Room
Fox News on the TV, and music by Natalie Cole, Cindi Lauper and Michael Jackson. Not what I expected, but better than a blaring Spanish language station that a lot of places have on. I thought about ordering an omelet; they have some interesting choices. But they call their Ropa Vieja a "specialty', and it's one of my favorites, so I ordered that with yellow rice and beans.
My server brought out the complimentary bread.
Senor Cafe Bread
I've been to a lot of Cuban Restaurants, and this was the worst bread I've ever gotten. It wasn't quite toast, it wasn't really pressed. Italian bread with margarine? I don't know what it was, but it was bad. So I didn't eat it. They also served a not-so-fresh tasting iced tea without a lemon or lime, and she ran off so quickly that I didn't get a chance to ask for any.
I was a bit worried. Could everything be as bad as the bread? Ropa is pre-cooked, so I didn't have much time to think about it.
Senor Cafe Ropa Vieja
Ah, now this looked good. The cup with the beans was full, and they were real cuban beans. They actually had flavor. This is what Ropa is supposed to look like; Ropa Vieja means "old clothes", and this dish involves braising flank steak in a sofrito (a garlicky tomato sauce) until it can be ripped into "rags". Some places seem to cook the beef in too much liquid, but this looked like it was done right.
Senor Cafe Ropa Vieja
This was a bigger portion than I was expecting. For $8.95 I was expecting a lunch portion, but this is as much as you get for $14.95 or more elsewhere. The Ropa was very good, not the best I've ever had, I prefer it more garlicky. But it was still one of the best I've had in a while. I like the fact that they give you a choice of white, Moros or yellow rice also. I like yellow rice with Ropa Vieja.
They charged me a $1 for the tea even thought it's listed at $2.50 on the menu, which made up for the lack of a refill. So the tab for all of this was $10.
Service here can be frustrating however. It took forever to get my check taken care of. It took me a while to flag down my server to ask for my check, then it took a while for her to bring it, and then another 10 minutes for her to come and take my card. It shouldn't take so long to get out of a place.