Friday, April 3, 2009

Alex's Cuban Cafe: A Meal-Time Island Getaway

Like the nation of Cuba itself, Alex’s Cuban Café is an island. An island not set in clear, sparkling-blue Caribbean waters, but an island set in a sea of suburban blight. You’d never expect to find a restaurant with such excellent food and friendly, welcoming service in such a small, nondescript shopping center. Especially one along busy Highway 17-92 in Longwood. It’s easy to miss the place. Vacant shops, used car lots, check cashing centers and deteriorating fast food restaurants urge you to keep on driving. Slow down; take the time to seek out Alex’s. You’ll be glad you did.

Inside, you could easily believe you were in a small, Havana café. Island-style rattan chairs invite you to sit and relax a bit under slowly rotating ceiling fans. Terracotta flooring and Spanish tile abounds. There’s a little palm tree on each table and a short dining counter up front by the window. It’s a nice little space.

The menu is brief. A typical selection of Cuban dishes listed in English and Spanish with thorough English descriptions for each dish. Rellenas, empanadas and croquettas to start. Several beef, pork, chicken, and fish dishes for the main course. Flan and a few guava filled pastries for dessert. An assortment of canned soft drinks from Latin America. And of course, Café Cubano (Cuban Coffee).

I chose the Lechon Asado, a platter of pulled pork with grilled garlic and onions. It was served with sweet plantains and black bean soup with white rice. The pork was absolutely delicious. It was moist, flavorful, and warm. The grilling added a wonderful crunch to the tender meat. The plantains were sweet and fresh. The rice and beans were excellent. The portions were plentiful for the price.

My guest enjoyed the Bistec ($9.25), a delightfully-thin-sliced strip of steak topped with grilled garlic and onions. The giant strip was tender and cut easily with a butter knife. It was devoured in moments.

For dessert, we each tried the flan - a cool, creamy custard drizzled with, and floating in, a thin, sickening-sweet caramel sauce. Flan can be hit-or-miss at some Cuban restaurants. Tonight, at Alex’s, it was perfect.

One server took care of every detail in the dining room. The singular server was also the hostess, busser, expeditor, phone operator and cashier. She seemed to handle it all in stride - with confidence, and with a smile. She brought our food quickly and checked on us throughout the meal. She knew customers by name and even ran a take-out order to a car waiting in the rain.

The small dining room was filled with locals: two families, 3 policemen, and a soccer team. We seemed to be the only newbies in the place. It’s obvious that once you’ve discovered the island oasis of Alex’s Cuban Café, you’ll be back. We will definitely be back.

Note: Alex’s closes daily at 8 p.m. and is closed Sundays and Mondays.

4 ½ Island Getaways out of 5

Alex’s Cuban Café
941 S. U.S. Hwy 17-92
Longwood, FL 32750


Alex's Cuban Cafe on Urbanspoon


akeorlando said...

Just discovered your blog via Twitter! Looking forward to reading more, and we'll probably do a post on our blog about your site.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the compliment and possible mention. I appreciate it. Glad to have you as a contributor.

woofboy111 said...

I can't figure out where this place is. I looked for it last night as I drove up that section of 17-92 and didn't see it.

Is it in the strip mall with Udipi Cafe, or somewhere else?

Eating Orlando said...

It's directly under a 2-sided billboard across the street from a closed Dunkin Donuts. At the south end of a tiny strip mall. Will you let me know what you think if you find it?