1909 Salvio St, Concord, CA 94520 | 925.798.2822 | website
hours: Tue-Sat 11 am – 9 pm
Cuba Linda Tropical Cafe opened last month on a quiet side street across from the Brendan Theater in downtown Concord. It’s just a few blocks from Todos Santos Plaza which has a farmers market on Tuesdays. When we pulled up, I realized that we had eaten here before when it was an Afgani restaurant, but it has been completely remodeled with the bright colors of the Caribbean and overhead fans and rattan chairs that impart the feel of the tropics. The owner is Linda Swartz, who most recently worked at The Peasant and the Pear in Danville. She found inspiration in the cuisine and culture of her husband and his family who fled from Cuba during the Castro regime in the 1960s. The menu offers Cuban comfort food using family recipes to prepare typical homestyle dishes in a casual environment where you place your order at the counter and the food is brought to your table.
I liked the serve-yourself cupboard filled with napkins silverware, plates, hot sauce and toothpicks.
Out of curiosity, I ordered a couple of items from the appetizer list and found that each piece is really too small to share (especially with co-workers and if you’re hungry). This is the Papa Rellena ($1.50 each), a mashed potato ball stuffed with beef picadillo (spicy with chopped olives and raisins) that has been deep fried and came with a wedge of lime to squeeze over.
I also had a Croqueta ($1 each) Crisp croquette with a savory filling of creamy potato with bits of ham, and between the two I liked the papa rellena best.
I had to try their signature dish, the Sandwich Cubano ($8), which was filled with delectable slices of roast pork, smoked ham, melted Swiss cheese, and a layer of crunchy dill pickle slices. The bun was griddled so that the roll developed a nice crunch and was slathered with butter & mustard inside. This came with the side Ensalada Cubana, a crispy medly of chopped romaine lettuce with slices of avocado, red onion and roma tomatoes that was tossed with a bright lemony vinaigrette.
I loved this sandwich, It was very substantial and full of intense flavors and rich luscious textures and oh so very good. I wondered if the roast pork in the sandwich is the same as their other signature dish Lechon, and will just have to go back to find out.
Viktor had the Pollo ($8) which was described as a citrus-marinated chicken breast with avocado, tomato & mojo sauce, served wtih Mariquitas, deep-fried green plantain chips with garlic dipping sauce. He said it was somewhat bland, but I know that he has a high tolerance for heat and had expected something spicy. The chips were thicker than potato chips, starchy and dense and let me warn you that the dipping sauce will set you up with a garlic infused tint on the world for a long time to come.
Chris had the Pan con Ropa Vieja ($8) which was described as Cuban sloppy Joe. The shredded beef in Creole tomato sauce held together pretty well, didn’t seem too sloppy.
Shabeer had the Mami’s Arroz con Pollo $10 which was tender chicken cooked with rice & tomatoes in saffron chicken broth, served with maduros (fried plantains). He let me sample a bite and the short grained rice was tender and saucy, richly flavored and aromatic.
Chris also ordered the frozen passionfruit shake called Batidos – ($3) which was frothy and fruity and deliciously refreshing; although after that cuban sloppy joe, he had to take this to-go as dessert.
We had one order that didn’t make it to the table with the rest, which was later delivered packed up to go since we had to get back to the office… but Linda apologized profusely and gave us a voucher good for 1 free lunch. I don’t know if I will use it, it was their first week of business after all… I’m definitely going back to try other things on the menu after I get another Cubano sandwich!