Cuban-born chef Raynold Mendizábal’s lively new destination for rum cocktails, spiked desserts, and ceviches lands this week in downtown Silver Spring.
El Sapo Cuban Social Club (8455 Fenton Street, Silver Spring, Md.), scheduled to open at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, October 30, serves an extensive menu cribbed from the classics Mendizábal ate while growing up on the Caribbean island. For example, there will be ropa vieja — stewed, pulled beef and vegetables — and salmon a la plancha, with the adobo-rubbed fish seared medium rare and served with a pineapple and smoked cachucha pepper mojo sauce.
Mendizábal, who runs 5-year-old meat mecca Urban Butcher a short walk away, curated the lineup of rums. One- or two-ounce pours of Rón Zaya, aged one year in toasted American oak, makes its way into the “Manhattan de Miami” alongside a house vermouth blend and angostura.
The wine list features a “chef’s rare finds” section featuring tempranillos and a bottle of 2008 Prieto Picudo from Tierra de Leon ($72). Tropical cocktails include a freshly cut coconut with Bacardi Coco ($12) and mojito pitchers ($40). Some desserts ($3-$12) encourage lingering, like the Mocha Cubana (chocolate café soufflé with coconut ice cream) that takes 25 minutes to make. The Nutella banana daiquiri comes with a “boozy” warning label.
Bigger groups can split a street food sampler for four ($78). A “for two” section includes fiery oxtails braised with habanero peppers ($56) and whole Spanish branzino ($52).
Here’s a first look at the opening menu:
The layout includes a 24-seat wraparound bar that overlooks a spacious private patio. The restaurant’s “Havana Nights” — kicking off at 9 p.m. on Sundays to Thursdays and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays — will feature music, a limited menu, mojito specials, and espresso drinks. A daily happy hour at the bar from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. slashes prices on mojitos, beers, house wines, and Cubano sandwiches. On weekends, a daytime fiesta from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. calls for live DJs and musicians and food and drink discounts.