As a proud Cuban-American, I am obsessed with my culture. It’s crazy that a place I’ve never been to holds such a special place in my heart. Cuban culture is unlike any other. I dream of one day visiting Cuba, but for now, I can only go by the stories I was told as a child and the delicious meals I grew up on, living in a Cuban household in Miami.
After all, food brought us together. Between my abuela’s best arroz con pollo on the weekends, sipping a Materva (Cuban soda) and feasting on the lechon (pork) during noche buena (Christmas Eve), and pastelitos and croquetas from the Cuban bakery that were present at every one of my birthday parties—I was raised on Cuban cuisine!
Now that I am living in New York City, finding authentic Cuban food has been not just a challenge, but downright impossible. Everyone knows NYC is a melting pot of cultures and offers a plethora of cuisines. The best chefs, restaurants, and food in the world can be found here. But my biggest complaint—and that of any Cuban living in New York—will always be that you can’t find Cuban food like the kind you find in Miami in New York City. The places that try to come close are nowhere near as authentic. Needless to say, I have been disappointed in not being able to find these Cuban bites that I grew up on… until now!
My Cuban Spot
488 Carroll Street (Third Avenue) in Gowanus
Follow the fun on Instagram: @MyCubanSpot
I was skeptical of trying this new spot, given that every “Cuban” place in NY has been nothing short of a disappointment. But when a friend who was visiting NYC from Miami said one of our own (Miami people) opened it up and raved about it, I knew I had to check it out. So I made the trek to Brooklyn, with my Miami crew, to see how authentic this place really was.
I was absolutely blown away from the first bite. Chef and owner Louie Estrada, who was born in Miami to Cuban parents, has turned every single aspect of this tiny spot in Brooklyn into every memory you’ve ever had growing up in a Cuban household. From the walk-up ventanita (window) like they had in Cuba and the array of Cuban sodas stocked in the fridge (I’m talking Jupina, Materva, Iron Beer here), to the Cuban “colada” he warmly greeted us with, it was heaven on earth for me.
The menu is every Cubanita’s dream. Delicious sandwiches like my personal favorite, The Boss (El Cubano), comprised of sweet Ham, Swiss Cheese, Pork, Pickles & Mustard on tasty flaky and buttery Cuban Bread. Then there’s the classic pan con lechon, where the pork is topped with onions and papitas and sandwiched between two slices of Cuban bread. Or the Cuban version of a burger: a Frita, featuring savory ground beef and pork seasoned with salsa de tomate and a sauce that will bring you back to Miami’s Little Havana.
Louie will serve you up classic Cuban snacks like the Guava & Cheese Empanada and Pork Rinds (which he likes to call Cuban “Crack”), as well as classic dishes like Pick-A-Dillow (Picadillo) and Rice & beans with the secret sauce ground meat. And of course, no meal is complete without classic Cuban side dishes like Sweet Plantains (Plátanos Maduros), Plantain Chips (Mariquitas) and my absolute favorite: Yucca Fries.
Here’s what I ordered (please note, moderation is not a word I’m too familiar with!):
The Boss (El Cubano) w/ a side of Plantain Chips
I couldn’t pick just one, so I ordered all three classic Cuban sodas: Jupina, Materva & Iron Beer
Yucca Fries (they will change your life)
Empanadas filled with Guayaba y Cheese & an Empanada de Carne (beef)
Finish it off with a Cafecito (it’s all about the cream and foam made from sugar here):
One bite into my Cuban sandwich and I was instantly transported to Miami and memories of my childhood.
Every bite was like a stroll down memory lane, through my tastebuds of course. Louie and the team at My Cuban Spot have put their heart and Cuban soul into making sure that from the moment you first walk in, to that very last bite, you are home.
And in the words of one of my favorite legendary Cubans (my abuelo), “Ñooooo, tremendo sanwicheeeeee.”
What I love about this place, aside from the incredible food, is the story and hustle behind My Cuban Spot. Louie’s story fascinated me because, like me, he left Miami and moved to New York ten years ago in search of something bigger. It takes a certain kind of person to leave Miami and take on New York City. And when you meet us, you realize we are all cut from the same cloth. We want more—we don’t settle for just any ordinary life.
Louie had a dream and a vision and he has put his heart and sazon into this tiny spot in Brooklyn. You can find him at the restaurant on any given day of the week. In fact, remember that Cuban Boss sandwich that will melt your taste buds? It’s likely he was up seasoning it at 5 a.m.
The next time you’re in New York do yourself a favor and head to My Cuban Spot. You will be supporting a dream and giving back to a small business, and your taste buds will surely thank you. I guarantee you will have the best Cuban sandwich you’ve ever had in your life.
And yes—that includes any sandwich you’ve had back home in the 3-0-5. Coming from a Miami girl like me, that’s more than a bold statement… it’s an absolute fact! I put my money (and food) where my mouth is. Trust me, I am always eating.
A proud Mom thanks you kindly for your beautifully written story … it actually made me cry ? Good tears. Thank you even more for the shout out to those who’ve struggled to make their dreams a reality (like my son) and for the hopeful dreamers who will never give up. Support small and local businesses ????
Everyone has dreams, but only a few have the courage to attempt to make them a reality! Kudos to Louie! You should be very proud! Tremendo Chef!
As a new customer – Cuban born, NY breed, FINALLY a Picadillo that rivals my abuelas….thank you Louie for teaching people what Cuban food really taste like….and lucky us to have you in Brooklyn….best of luck on your venture!