Cheap Eats 2010: Cuba de Ayer

100 great places that offer great food at low prices.

Why go: This pulsing, handsomely appointed hole in the wall isn’t just the best Cuban restaurant in this Cuban-poor region—it’s the real deal. The kitchen minds the details, whether it’s taking time with a bowl of inky black beans or giving a proper fry to the shredded tangle of meat known as vaca frita.

What to get: A definitive version of smoky black beans and oiled rice; tender fried ham croquetas; the zesty beef hash known as picadillo; vaca frita; sour-orange-soaked pork masitas; a faithful if not quite wondrous Cubano sandwich; strong, sweet Cuban coffee; tres leches cake.

Best for: A festive but affordable night out. The soundtrack pumps out good Cuban music, and after a drink or two you can easily forget where you are.

Insider tip: Portions are substantial, so unless you’re interested in covering a lot of ground, you can share an appetizer—or skip it and concentrate on entrées.

>> See all 2010 Cheap Eats restaurants here        

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.