with Tom & Al on the spur of the moment today - we visited Jose's Real Cuban Food, one of our local restaurants that was featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins & Dives.
We arrived at about 12:45 and the restaurant was busy with the lunch crowd. After being greeted with a sample of the pulled pork (Lechon Asado), which is the house specialty, and menus to peruse - we waited about about ten minutes for a table. The place is small - and with its cramped seating - even with stools at the counter, it certainly meets the criteria of a dive. But in a good way.
Tom ordered the Ropa Vieja - shredded beef brisket in tomato sauce, black beans & rice and a side of plantanitos. Al & I opted for the traditional Cuban sandwich; his with black beans & rice, mine with plantanitos. The half-Cuban was pretty big - what most restaurants would consider a whole sandwich. Al gave the beans & rice his nod of approval and the plantanitos were good - but I did find myself wishing they were tostones instead. The Cubans were perfectly pressed and filled with shredded pork, ham, pickles and cheese. Tom gave his meal and "eh" and while the plantanitos & rice were good, he was not as thrilled with his entree. The meat had apparently not been trimmed at all, either before cooking or after and the effect was less than appetizing. He got his caffeine fix for the day with a cup of cafe con leche - no complaints about that! When we left, Tom & Al both said that they preferred the Cuban food at a little place in Cape Coral; I am a long-time fan of the Columbia in Ybor City - not just for their amazing salad, but they also make a mean Cuban sandwich. All in all, lunch was good - but not amazing, as one might expect it to be for having been featured on a network food show. If you have a hankering for paella and $165, you can take seven of your friends out for a nice meal - provided you give at least three hours notice. Aggie was extremely happy with the leftover half of a very large half a sandwich and two plantanitos I brought home and she gives the pork two paws up.