Cravings - Cuban Food
If you grew up eating the cuisine of your ethnicity, you are undoubtedly extremely picky when eating that cuisine at local establishments. Will it ever live up to your Abuela’s cooking? No. Will it live up to your mother’s dishes that she made after being taught by your Abuela? Probably not.
With grandparents gone, and mom too tired to make huge family feasts, the best you can get is your sisters culinary skills once in awhile. Although, I have been making my own tostones lately, overall I’m a little late to the authentic cooking game, so I’m always hunting for a local restaurant that gets me close to a family dinner feels.
I rarely travel to Kissimmee, but I took advantage of an appointment there to see if any good Cuban food was awaiting me. Buchito popped up on my Yelp map and the reviews were promising. It’s located on Broadway in downtown (easy parking on the street) and when I saw a guy chilled out on their porch smoking a cigar I was hopeful I had stumbled on something real. It’s not a huge space inside, but during lunch I was able to find a window seat to cozy up in alone.
I kept my order simple, just a Cuban sandwich and an iced cafe con leche. As soon as my sandwich was brought to me I just stared at it. I knew before I took a bite it was going to be good. How? The bread was firmly pressed without being burnt. The pork was cut properly and was stacked in huge glistening chunks. The cheese was melted just enough, and I saw several pickles poking through. It was actually better than the last Cuban sandwich I had in Little Havana during my last trip to Miami.
All I can say is you should go here, and I’m mad no one told me this gem existed sooner.
Location: 131 Broadway, Kissimmee
Cafe Pinar - Near Florida Mall
Have you ever heard of this spot? The only reason I found them is because I worked on this side of town for years and started using Yelp to locate lunch spots that weren’t Chipolte. The first time I went here I ordered a Cuban sandwich to-go that I ate in my car. The size was massive. The bread was pressed just long enough for crispy edges but a easily bitten into middle. The pork amount was generous, the pickle to meat ratio was perfection, and mustard in just the right spots. My biggest gripe with Cuban sandwiches is when you bite into ig and the center is cold. All the rage comes. At Cafe Pinar I was in heaven.
It became a regular spot for me, and because of the size I ate one half for lunch and the other half for dinner.
What to know: They are only open until 3:30 p.m. every day except Sunday, so this is a lunch spot. It’s inside a shopping center right on the corner, and inside there is plenty of seating if you which to dine-in.
Location: 730 Sand Lake Rd, Orlando
Lechonera Latina - East Orlando
While Lechonera Latina is not exclusively Cuban cuisine, you can select from their offerings mainly Cuban dishes if you wish. The combination plate and a drink is priced under $10 and they are generous with the portions. It’s buffet style, so you can make your own combinations of your favorites. I usually opt for the pork (lechon), yellow rice, and tostones.
What to know: There are multiple locations around Orlando with the name Lechonera. This one is located at 3806 Curry Ford Rd. While there is seating inside it is limited. They will serve your portions in to-go boxes which is helpful since the servings are so large you are sure to bring some home.
Hebers Cuban Cafe - Apopka + East Orlando
Hebers has two locations, but I usually visit the one in Apopka in the shopping center at Wekiva Springs. Important to note about Hebers is that due to religious reasons, the owners do not serve pork. When I first found this out I was honestly hesitant to go, since pork roast is my staple. That meant no lechon platters and no Cuban sandwiches. Well, they have a Cuban sandwich, but without pork it’s just not the same to me. Despite this menu hurdle, I love their palomilla steak as well as their chicken platters. Both are very flavorful and come with the sides you will always be craving. They also have powerful Cuban coffee.
What to know: As mentioned before, this restaurant does not serve pork, so consult the menu before you and make sure that there is something you’ll want to eat.
Cuban American Cafe - Downtown Orlando
If you didn’t know that the Cuban American Cafe is nestled in the bottom floor of the Fairwinds building downtown, you’ve probably never heard of it. I usually stop here for breakfast, but their media noche is also quite satisfying. They have ample serving sizes for the breakfast plates and their Cuban bread is some of the best I’ve found in Orlando.
What to know: Because they are located inside the Fairwinds building, it goes without saying that they are only open on weekdays and close at 4 p.m.
Chicas Cuban Cafe - Deland
I took full advantage of a trip to one of my favorite antique markets in Deland to try out the newish Chicas Cuban Cafe. The restaurant is housed in a cute cottage-style home on Howry Avenue, complete with a patio with fans and string lights for night time events. When we visited the inside was full so we had to sit outside in the heat. It wasn’t too bad since it was covered, but just know that could happen to you.
The owners were born in Cuba and lived in Miami before moving to Deland, and their menu offers all the dishes you’d expect from an authentic Cuban restaurant. I ordered a lechon plate with tostones and yuca as my side. My friend ordered one of their chicken plates, but it was unlike any chicken dish I have ever had. There was a special tangy sauce glazed over the pieces and it very flavorful and juicy. They also had Iron Beer on the menu which is actually a cola I’ve only been able to get in Miami, so that was an added bonus to complete a really satisfying meal.
With the exception of a few places in Deland, I’ve always struggled to find restaurants I fell in love with. Chicas will definitely be added to the list of regular places to dine when I visit.
Location: 208 W Howry Ave, DeLand
Los Authenticos - East Orlando
This East Orlando restaurant drew me in when I saw this drink featured below. I love Cuban coffee, but I hadn’t seen anyone try and pull off this classic version of it. Iced Cuban coffee (two shots of espresso), whip cream, and honey puffs cereal. If you are skeptical I understand, but I love it.
They have all the Cuban staples you’ll expect with solid options if you are craving Cuban on that side of town.
Location: 7339 E Colonial Drive, Orlando
Black Bean Deli is probably the most popular Cuban restaurant in Orlando. I’m always getting my BBD coffee card stamped, I love their fried yuca, and I normally opt for a sandwich over a platter. The real winner tends to be the avocado dressing that I would slather on everything that touches my plate. I’m still grateful to my friend Liv for telling me I could get a salad bowl here when I don’t want yellow rice bloat.
I can’t wait to see how they transform the old Winnie’s space into their new location on Orange Avenue. Still waiting for quesito straws to be a cute up-charge, but until then I’ll keep making my own.
To be completely honest, Zaza is probably my number one go-to for Cuban. It’s convenient because I live near one of their locations, but above that, it is ALWAYS on point for me. First of all, they serve breakfast all day. None of this only until 11 a.m. nonsense.
My favorite breakfast options are the Carlito’s Way (steak and eggs) and the Oatmeal Al Caribe. From the lechon and palomilla platters, to their breakfast options, and oh my the quesitos, Zaza has proved time and time again to be solid. They also have tostones, so crispy and salty and beautifully greasy, it just really makes my heart happy. Visit for their special on Tuesday nights where you can get two dinner platters for the price of one.
What to know: Locations include Curry Ford, Waterford Lakes, Altamonte Springs, and a small spot in the Orlando airport.
Bodega on Central
I know that we don’t have a Bodega in Orlando, but this is my shout-out and online plea for the owners to expand East and come to me. Bodega on Central is located in St. Petersburg, but they’ve been expanding to new locations, including one in Tampa. They are one of the few places that makes black beans edible to me. I’ve hated them since I was a child and I would always opt for yellow rice and chorizo every time, but beans are cheap and were a staple I couldn’t avoid. At Bodega, they are so flavorful, that I get over my dislike of the texture and go to town on them. My absolute favorite is pictured here, lechon and maduros served with black beans and rice. I LOVE YOU BODEGA!
If you find yourself on the West coast and craving Cuban, you will NOT be disappointed. Note: most of the eating space at the St. Pete location is outdoors.
Location: 1120 Central Ave, St. Pete + 5901 N. Florida Avenue, Tampa
Cuban Food Glossary
Arroz y frijoles or Congri - black beans mixed with rice
Bistec de palomilla - very thin steak
Café con leche - coffee with milk. Similar to a latte with an equal ratio of Cuban espresso and steamed milk
Cafecito - Cuban version of espresso, a small shot of strong espresso with sugar
Cortadito - similar to the cafecito but cut with milk and topped with a halo of steamed milk
Croquets - mashed meat that is breaded fried
Maduros - plantains that are very ripe that are sliced up and frie
Media noche - identical to a Cuban sandwich but served on sweet bread (almost like challah bread)
Pastelitos - a Cuban puff pastry normally filled with guava and cheese or meat
Pollo anything - Chicken
Ropa Vieja - shredded beef normally slow cooked in fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic
Tostones - plantains before they ripen that are smashed down and fried (my favorite thing in the world)
Vaca Frita - fried and shredded skirt or flank steak
All the food pictured in this post was paid for and eaten by me! No restaurant asked me to include them. All photos belong to LemonHearted Creative. Get out and explore your city! The shirt seen in this picture was purchased from Karla and Co. and is a size L.