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 Petworth.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.