Nancy, Joyce and Willie (whom you met at Captain Charlie’s Reef Grill), and I took a drive down from Palm Beach Shores to Delray to visit our old (in the sense of long-time) friends Bob Leland and Vicki Duff, who sold Bob’s house down the street and moved to Florida (while maintaining a pied a terre here in the DC area for our cool, crisp summer months. Go figure.) They chose Delray for their Florida location after extensive research.
It’s a very nice town, on the ocean and with a restaurant and entertainment center for the southern Palm Beach County and beyond. Restaurants line Atlantic Avenue. Now, when you’re in South Florida, you want to eat some Cuban food. The unquestioned best place for Cuban food in Palm Beach County is Havana, which Nancy and I visited often with Joyce and Willie on previous trips, and which inspired us to press for Cabana El Rey, the top Cuban place in Delray, and one of the top-rated restaurants, as out lunch destination.
We all strolled down Atlantic Avenue to Cabana El Rey. I looked at the menu and my heart sank. No lechon asado. What sort of Cuban restaurant has no pork? Ah, well, in a triumph of hope over experience, I ordered a Cuban sandwich, which does contain some roast pork and ham.
I think that’s my Cuban. It may have been the Cabana Club, a chicken sandwich with a crispy wafer of serrano ham that Willie had ordered. Ah, mine had that curiously oily mojo, the reddish stuff. Neither was a bad sandwich. Both were okay. They just didn’t have that Cuban touch.
The sandwiches and other dishes came with your choice of a cup of soup or a salad, and I opted for the lentil soup with chorizo.
It wasn’t a lot of chorizo, but the soup tasted fine. Everyone else chose salad, which came with a large if tasteless slice of Cuban bread.
Nancy ordered the Ropa Vieja, shredded beef over black beans and rice in a green pepper, onion, and tomato sauce over rice. It looks good, doesn’t it?
Nancy, however, realized that she dislikes boiled beef, so scraped it to the side, and had the rice and beans, which tasted pretty good. And Joyce ordered grilled chicken,
which, she said, would have tasted a lot better if it had been pounded out before cooking.
Bob and Vicki had better luck. Bob liked his empanadas,
which were seasoned to his taste, and were flaky rather than doughy. And I think there might have been a third empanada. But Vicki was the overall winner. She ordered vegetables in a curry sauce, and was very enthusiastic.
Vicki gave me a taste and it really was very good. I see why she loved it.
I felt as if I’d entered an alternative universe, in which the best dish in a Cuban restaurant was a curry, and there was no Cuban pork to be had for love or money. It wasn’t a great restaurant. Still, it was a great lunch and a great visit. The main attraction was getting together with Vicki and Bob, our snowbird friends. We look forward to getting together with them again. They’re good friends, and Delray has whole a lot of restaurants for us to try.
For Cuban food, you want to go straight to Havana for their lechon asado and the tres leches cake, which is getting almost close to as good as Liza’s coconut cake, or just about anything else. But go where your friends are, especially if they’re in Delray. You might just move there.
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