Cheap Eats 2011: Cuba de Ayer

Cuban food is often referred to as abuelita’s, or grandmother’s, food. At its best, it’s a hearty, lovingly prepared cuisine, and this lively little cafe is right not to fancy it up–the name refers to the Cuba of yesterday.

Owners William and Jessica Rodriguez have a taste for the dramatic–ornately framed prints of old Havana adorn oxblood-red walls, lending the room the air of a supper club–but the food brims with the charms of great home cooking. The best dishes, such as the ground-beef-and-potato-hash picadillo, the warm, crunchy ham croquetas, and the chicken soup with rough-cut veggies and hunks of meat, have a soulful simplicity.

Were you to make a meal only of rice and black beans, you wouldn’t go home unsatisfied. They’re glorious.

Also good: Shrimp in garlic sauce; lechon asado, sliced roast pork with sautéed onions; Cubano sandwich; tres leches cake.

Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner.

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.