Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Boom! La Guarida Cubana Cafe in Park Hill

While nothing like the food truck boom, the now-dissipating burger boom or even the under-appreciated cupcake boom, Denver is experiencing something of a boom when it comes to Cuban food. If we are talking pure numbers, it might not seem that impressive: two new restaurants this year. But if we are talking percentages, I think we may have about doubled our Cuban-ness in that same time. And if we are talking family-run, home-cooking-like Cuban cafes, the growth is exponential. Boom.


The Guarida Cubana in Park Hill makes for the second of Denver's family-run Cuban cafes, something of a dream come true for me and my voracious Cuban sandwich appetite. I recently wrote about the other (Cuban) family-run joint way over on the West side of town, so it is nice to see the Cuban scales tipping back East, because while I don't ever mind driving across town for a good meal, the closer the better.

La Guarida is a small storefront on the South Side of Colfax near Jasmine that, like many other great restaurants, you could drive right by without noticing if you didn't have a good nose for Cubans (sandwiches, that is). Unlike many of my other senses that are dull, clumsy and largely useless in my advancing age; my Cuban sense is still strong, and I had this place sniffed out even before it was open for business. Imagine my disappointment when I walked up only to find that it wasn't opening for several more weeks. Then, as is often the case these days, it took me several months to make it back and at least another to write about it.


The night we finally made it in, we were greeted by the quiet but cordial Rosell family, owner's of La Guarida, and they motioned for us to choose a table from the small, empty dinging room. Despite the table service, the vibe at La Guarida was that of few frills. The interior was simple: red-checked table cloths and a few pictures of Cuba hanging from the otherwise bare brick walls. I tend to like simple and straightforward in my restaurants, so everything seemed just about right to me so far. We sat and I got busy ordering my Cuban.

When my Cuban came out I was happy to see it stacked with thick-sliced ham. The bread glistened in the late afternoon light and a line of bright yellow mustard popped out from amongst a pair of sliced pickles. A thin-but-not-too-thin slice of grilled pork stuck out from the top. It looked quite lovely.


And it tasted lovely too. Much of what I liked about this sandwich was that it was thick with meat. The bread was decent as well, grilled and pressed to a delicate crisp. It was a more-than-worthy Cuban and reason alone to return.

I got excited when sitting down to write this and neglected to mention that prior to my sandwich I was served this:


This was a chicken empanada. While innocuous as it may look in the picture above, it was undercooked pastry dough (though flaky and light) filled with some of the driest and blandest semi-ground white meat I have ever eaten. In fact, I wasn't even sure if it was chicken or pork. It didn't necessarily taste bad, it just didn't taste. Dipped in the garlicky sauce it came with helped some, but there was not much good to say about this empanada. 

My wife's dish, however, turned out to be quite good. She ordered the completa del dia, which was a heaping plate of Moros (black beans and rice), fried plantain and a nicely cooked pork chop. 


Though extremely simple and in many ways nothing spectacular, everything was right about this dish, and it was a fine example of Cuban comfort cooking. The pork was moist, the Moros were flavorful and the plantain was fried to perfection. Something I could eat every night of the week.

The boiled yuca we ordered was also good. Again, a simple dish of Cuban comfort. What, in fact, could be more simple that a boiled root vegetable. But it was excellent dipped in the same garlic sauce that could not save that worthless empanada.


We finished the night by splitting a small but richly flavored flan. I skipped the cafe con leche as, I have alluded to in other posts, I really can't stand milk or sugar of any kind in my coffee. I'm sure it's good if you like those kinds of things, but I decided to pass and let the sweet flavor of flan linger all the way home. 


La Guarida Cubana is a welcome addition to East Colfax and while it might not measure up to the warm welcome and all-round quality of its cross-town counterpart, it is certainly worth stopping in and sitting down for a helping of Cuban comfort--and, most importantly, a good Cuban sandwich. 

La Guarida Cubana on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

  1. average...had the pork sammy. wasn't much better than a sandwich at Safeway, but cost 2x.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Contrary to the review, my empanadas were delicious and the roast pork plate was excellent. speaking of excellent, try the pastries and some coffee for a late breakfast, they are fantastic.I will certainly be visiting this portion of Colfax now that this restaurant is there.

    ReplyDelete

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