Food

Cheap Eats 2008: Cuba de Ayer

Why go: It’s not Cuba—it’s not even Miami. But the cooking at this colorful hole in the wall is authentic, pulsing with the garlicky, slow-cooked flavors of Havana.

What to get: Ham croquettes, the outsides crunchy, the insides rich and creamy; vaca frita, a mound of beef made lacy, almost light, by double frying (give it a spritz of lemon); a comforting picadillo, beef hash garnished with bits of potato, olive, and onion; the best black beans and rice around; sticky-sweet plantains; a version of tres leches that, in spite of its almost custardlike consistency, still eats like a piece of cake.

Best for: Celebrating on the cheap, courtesy of the family-style plating and the short roster of cocktails and beers.

Insider tip: Forgo the moros y cristianos—black beans mixed with rice, a common side dish; they’re better ordered individually so you can appreciate the savor of the inky beans and the fluffiness of the oiled rice.

Open daily except Monday for lunch and dinner.

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