I must begin by urging you, first and foremost, to visit Cubita Libre Cafeteria. I feel like I do that quite a bit within my reviews, but this time it’s absolutely necessary to mention it right off the bat.
Cubita Libre Cafeteria is a new Cuban restaurant tucked in a bustling plaza on Hogan Road in Bangor. You know the one: it’s the same plaza with Bull Moose Music. This particular restaurant is in a smaller shop space (there were only four tables in the restaurant) right next to Quiznos.
My friend and I stumbled upon this delicious hole-in-the-wall by accident; we had planned on visiting the tiny Vietnamese restaurant we knew occupied another space in that plaza, only to discover that it had closed.
I saw the sign for the Cuban restaurant and I remembered reading about its opening in September 2016 in the Bangor Daily News. Now was a good a time as ever to visit.
I became slightly stressed upon entering, as most of the chalkboard menu contained food items I had never heard of. I asked the woman taking orders what a “Cuban Boliche” was. She informed me that it was an eye round of beef through a heavy Spanish accent. I had never had or heard of an eye round before.
Ready for anything, I ordered myself one Cuban Boliche with two sides of fried plantains and black beans and rice. I also ordered their drink special for the day, which was a virgin piña colada. When my counterpart ordered, she similarly did not know what she would receive. She is a vegetarian and therefore ordered the vegetarian plate with plantains and something called yucca.
As I mentioned before, there were only four tables in the restaurant and because we chose to go right around lunch time, you can imagine how full the business was. All four tables were taken, as well as about six chairs that lined the wall. These seemed to be for folks who were waiting for their takeout order.
Luckily, a table cleared before our food was ready. My friend and I sat on the edge of our seats, unsure of what to expect. “I have no idea what I ordered,” I kept saying. I was so excited.
Then, our food came.
Actually, my piña colada came before anything else and that was yummy. The menu boasted that the piña coladas were “not pre-mixed,” a difference I could definitely taste. I overheard another table asking what was in my drink (they seemed interested in ordering one themselves) and I heard an employee tell them that it contained ice, cream of coconut and pineapple juice. In any case, I enjoyed it thoroughly, as it didn’t taste like it was filled with syrup. It wasn’t too sweet and I loved that.
Once the rest of our food arrived, we dove right in; my black beans and rice were soft and savory. The fried plantains, which I have only tasted once or twice in my life, were cooked to perfection. They weren’t crunchy, but they were darkened and gooey. In any case, they were the best plantains I have had the privilege of tasting. My eye round of beef is exactly what it sounds like: a fist-sized round of beef cut. It seemed dry from the outside, but upon cutting into it, I realized it was expertly cooked all the way through. The moisture level was perfect and it paired nicely with the two little potato lumps that accompanied the round. The potatoes were covered in a red sauce that I can only assume was tomato.
I normally like to eat one section of my plate first and move on to another, but I was mixing black beans and rice and plantains here, taking a sip of pina colada there, digging into the potatoes and trying what was on my friend’s plate all at the same time.
The yucca she ordered was delicious, by the way. It tasted like a buttery, creamy, but also slightly waxy potato mixture. It’s hard to put into words, as I have virtually nothing in the long list of foods that I have ever consumed to compare it to.
The portions were large, too, so I was able to take the remainder of my meal home to enjoy the next day.
The staff were incredibly friendly as well. While my friend and I were waiting, the woman specifically engaged us in conversation, asking us if we needed anything. She even made a joke about putting rum in my virgin piña colada.
The whole experience was pleasant and I left the restaurant feeling full, but not too full. The authentic food had a clean feeling and taste that didn’t weigh me down or give me a stomach ache.
Cubita Libre Cafeteria should be a lunch destination for everyone at least once. Go ahead and try something you’ve never tried before. You’ll probably find yourself eating the most delicious meal of your life.