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The Cuban sandwich from Casta’s Rum Bar
The classic Cuban sandwich from Casta’s Rum Bar arrives atop a replica of a national Cuban newspaper with plantain chips.
Jennifer Chase/Jennifer Chase Photography

10 Destinations for Cuban Cuisine Around D.C.

Where to savor the island’s rich food and drinks

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The classic Cuban sandwich from Casta’s Rum Bar arrives atop a replica of a national Cuban newspaper with plantain chips.
| Jennifer Chase/Jennifer Chase Photography

From intimate neighborhood hangs to grand restaurants channeling nightclubs, there’s no shortage of places in D.C. to find Cuban food. Blending influences from African, Spanish, indigenous Taino, and Caribbean cooking, Cuban cuisine has hallmarks such as signature pressed sandwiches, vaca frita (fried and shredded steak typically topped with onions), empanadas, and ropa vieja (shredded beef cooked in tomato sauce and spices) with sides of sweet plantains or black bean soup. Strong, rum-based cocktails are a must.

Mi Cuba Cafe in Columbia Heights is one of the best options in the area. Casta’s Rum Bar in the West End is a newer addtion. Meanwhile, the team behind always-crowded Colada Shop plans to open its third location, at the Wharf development, this winter. D.C. just lost a short-lived Cuban favorite with the closing of Little Havana, which is turning into a Mexican restaurant.

Did we miss your favorite? Sound off in the comments below!

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Cuba De Ayer

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15446 Old Columbia Pike
Burtonsville, MD 20866
(301) 476-9622
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This acclaimed family restaurant in Montgomery County offers a full menu of Cuban staples, like picadillo, ropa vieja, and lechon asado, as well as a kids’ menu. Colorful dining rooms are decorated with artwork honoring the nation’s musical traditions, with live music on weekends rounding out the festive atmosphere.

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2. The Cuban Corner Restaurant

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825 Hungerford Dr
Rockville, MD 20850
(301) 279-0310
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This small eatery along an unassuming Rockville strip makes some of the best Cuban food in the region. Owner Joaquin Cabrejas, who hails from Oriente Province, ramps up the cumin that’s often downplayed in Cuban restaurants. As a result, specials like Picadillo de Oriente (pictured) make for spicy and thoroughly satisfying meals. Other favorites are lechon asada, ropa vieja and vaca frita. While the Picadillo de Oriente is no longer on the menu, staff still makes it upon request. —Pat Padua

A popular off-menu order at The Cuban Corner Restaurant
The off-menu Picadillo de Oriente at The Cuban Corner Restaurant
Pat Padua/Eater DC

3. Cubano's Restaurant

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1201 Fidler Ln
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 563-4020
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Vaca frita is a decent measure of a Cuban restaurant’s quality, and it’s one of the reliable mainstays at this Silver Spring favorite. At happy hour, also known as Cuban time, sip half-priced mojitos and choose from a selection of tapas, like mini Cuban sandwiches, chorizo asado, and empanaditas. —Pat Padua

A dish at Cubano’s Restaurant
Vaca frita at Cubano’s Restaurant
Pat Padua/Eater DC

4. Mi Cuba Café

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1424 Park Rd NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 813-3489
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This traditional, cozy spot in Columbia Heights excels in one of the key elements of authentic Cuban food: its signature bread, which is made specially for the cafe. The ropa vieja here is divine, but also try the vaca frita. Wash it all down with Spanish wine, a Cuba libre (white rum, lime and Coca-Cola), or traditional mojitos.

Mi Cuba Cafe - $20 Diner The Washington Post via Getty Images

5. Habana Village

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1834 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 975-1927
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This Adams Morgan restaurant recently reopened in the spring after closing for extensive renovations. Hit up its happy hour, where you’ll score chicken croquettes, a trio of empanadas, a sampler platter of yuca, tostones, small pieces of pork or chicken, or maduros (sweet, friend plantains). If you’re looking for something beyond small bites, Cuban sandwiches, ropa vieja, and ceviche with avocado are the most popular items.

6. Colada Shop (Multiple locations)

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1405 T St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 332-8800
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With strong coffee and even stronger mojitos, this vibrant spot expanded from its Sterling, Virginia, outpost to a sidewalk cafe off 14th Street NW, where it has quickly become a bustling city staple. Stop by to pick up coffee and flaky pastelitos, grab a hearty sandwich, or sip cocktails on the roof. Fried empanadas here stand out. So do piña coladas, tres leches cake, and croquetas.

A breakfast sandwich at Colada Shop
The avocado tostada, Colada Shop’s riff on avocado toast, is a top-selling breakfast sandwich.
Maya Oren/Colada Shop

7. Zita Rica

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1309 5th St NE
Washington, DC 20002

The sandwiches are what customers crave most at this family-owned Union Market stall helmed by chef Manny Rodriguez. A less classic option is a Cuban bowl with a choice of roasted pork, chicken or lamb, served with rice, black beans, and sweet plantains. All of Zita Rica’s juices — there’s guava, passion fruit, blackberry, soursop, and a “Cuban Gatorade” made with sugar cane and lime — support sustainable South American farms.

A meaty dish at Zita Rica
The Cuban lamb bowl from Zita Rica
Zita Rica [official photo]

8. Casta's Rum Bar

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1121 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 660-1440
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Come for the classic rum cocktails (made with 45 types of rum) and stay for the Cuban favorites at this new West End eatery. The classic sandwich comes on Cuban bread trucked in from Florida that’s stuffed with pickles, Swiss cheese, roasted pork, glazed ham, and yellow mustard. But equally good are its small plates, like maduros envueltos en tocino (sweet plantains wrapped in bacon) and camarones al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce with guindilla peppers and tostones). Don’t forget about the outdoor cigar lounge — in Cuba, it’s tradition to sip rum while puffing on cigars.

Shrimp at Casta’s Rum Bar
Camarones al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce with gundila peppers and tostones) from Casta’s Rum Bar.
Jennifer Chase/Jennifer Chase Photography

9. Havana Cafe

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1825 I St NW # ll-6
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 293-5303

This food court counter serves a limited but hearty lineup that includes Cuban sandwiches and a rich “shredded beef”— which is really the Cuban standby ropa vieja. —Pat Padua

A fast-casual dish at Havana Cafe
Ask for shredded beef at this downtown food court and you get ropa vieja in a rich gravy.
Pat Padua/Eater DC

10. Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery

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1515 N Courthouse Rd
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 243-2410
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Six days a week, this spot devotes itself to cuisine from the South. But on Wednesdays, chef-owner David Guas switches things up to honor his heritage by selling Cubano sandwiches, pastelitos stuffed with guava cream cheese, flán, and red beans and rice with yuca.

Cuban orders at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery
Pastelitos at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery
Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery [official photo]

1. Cuba De Ayer

15446 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville, MD 20866

This acclaimed family restaurant in Montgomery County offers a full menu of Cuban staples, like picadillo, ropa vieja, and lechon asado, as well as a kids’ menu. Colorful dining rooms are decorated with artwork honoring the nation’s musical traditions, with live music on weekends rounding out the festive atmosphere.

15446 Old Columbia Pike
Burtonsville, MD 20866

2. The Cuban Corner Restaurant

825 Hungerford Dr, Rockville, MD 20850
A popular off-menu order at The Cuban Corner Restaurant
The off-menu Picadillo de Oriente at The Cuban Corner Restaurant
Pat Padua/Eater DC

This small eatery along an unassuming Rockville strip makes some of the best Cuban food in the region. Owner Joaquin Cabrejas, who hails from Oriente Province, ramps up the cumin that’s often downplayed in Cuban restaurants. As a result, specials like Picadillo de Oriente (pictured) make for spicy and thoroughly satisfying meals. Other favorites are lechon asada, ropa vieja and vaca frita. While the Picadillo de Oriente is no longer on the menu, staff still makes it upon request. —Pat Padua

825 Hungerford Dr
Rockville, MD 20850

3. Cubano's Restaurant

1201 Fidler Ln, Silver Spring, MD 20910
A dish at Cubano’s Restaurant
Vaca frita at Cubano’s Restaurant
Pat Padua/Eater DC

Vaca frita is a decent measure of a Cuban restaurant’s quality, and it’s one of the reliable mainstays at this Silver Spring favorite. At happy hour, also known as Cuban time, sip half-priced mojitos and choose from a selection of tapas, like mini Cuban sandwiches, chorizo asado, and empanaditas. —Pat Padua

1201 Fidler Ln
Silver Spring, MD 20910

4. Mi Cuba Café

1424 Park Rd NW, Washington, DC 20010
Mi Cuba Cafe - $20 Diner The Washington Post via Getty Images

This traditional, cozy spot in Columbia Heights excels in one of the key elements of authentic Cuban food: its signature bread, which is made specially for the cafe. The ropa vieja here is divine, but also try the vaca frita. Wash it all down with Spanish wine, a Cuba libre (white rum, lime and Coca-Cola), or traditional mojitos.

1424 Park Rd NW
Washington, DC 20010

5. Habana Village

1834 Columbia Rd NW, Washington, DC 20009

This Adams Morgan restaurant recently reopened in the spring after closing for extensive renovations. Hit up its happy hour, where you’ll score chicken croquettes, a trio of empanadas, a sampler platter of yuca, tostones, small pieces of pork or chicken, or maduros (sweet, friend plantains). If you’re looking for something beyond small bites, Cuban sandwiches, ropa vieja, and ceviche with avocado are the most popular items.

1834 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, DC 20009

6. Colada Shop (Multiple locations)

1405 T St NW, Washington, DC 20009
A breakfast sandwich at Colada Shop
The avocado tostada, Colada Shop’s riff on avocado toast, is a top-selling breakfast sandwich.
Maya Oren/Colada Shop

With strong coffee and even stronger mojitos, this vibrant spot expanded from its Sterling, Virginia, outpost to a sidewalk cafe off 14th Street NW, where it has quickly become a bustling city staple. Stop by to pick up coffee and flaky pastelitos, grab a hearty sandwich, or sip cocktails on the roof. Fried empanadas here stand out. So do piña coladas, tres leches cake, and croquetas.

1405 T St NW
Washington, DC 20009

7. Zita Rica

1309 5th St NE, Washington, DC 20002
A meaty dish at Zita Rica
The Cuban lamb bowl from Zita Rica
Zita Rica [official photo]

The sandwiches are what customers crave most at this family-owned Union Market stall helmed by chef Manny Rodriguez. A less classic option is a Cuban bowl with a choice of roasted pork, chicken or lamb, served with rice, black beans, and sweet plantains. All of Zita Rica’s juices — there’s guava, passion fruit, blackberry, soursop, and a “Cuban Gatorade” made with sugar cane and lime — support sustainable South American farms.

1309 5th St NE
Washington, DC 20002

8. Casta's Rum Bar

1121 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037
Shrimp at Casta’s Rum Bar
Camarones al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce with gundila peppers and tostones) from Casta’s Rum Bar.
Jennifer Chase/Jennifer Chase Photography

Come for the classic rum cocktails (made with 45 types of rum) and stay for the Cuban favorites at this new West End eatery. The classic sandwich comes on Cuban bread trucked in from Florida that’s stuffed with pickles, Swiss cheese, roasted pork, glazed ham, and yellow mustard. But equally good are its small plates, like maduros envueltos en tocino (sweet plantains wrapped in bacon) and camarones al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce with guindilla peppers and tostones). Don’t forget about the outdoor cigar lounge — in Cuba, it’s tradition to sip rum while puffing on cigars.

1121 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20037

9. Havana Cafe

1825 I St NW # ll-6, Washington, DC 20006
A fast-casual dish at Havana Cafe
Ask for shredded beef at this downtown food court and you get ropa vieja in a rich gravy.
Pat Padua/Eater DC

This food court counter serves a limited but hearty lineup that includes Cuban sandwiches and a rich “shredded beef”— which is really the Cuban standby ropa vieja. —Pat Padua

1825 I St NW # ll-6
Washington, DC 20006

10. Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery

1515 N Courthouse Rd, Arlington, VA 22201
Cuban orders at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery
Pastelitos at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery
Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery [official photo]

Six days a week, this spot devotes itself to cuisine from the South. But on Wednesdays, chef-owner David Guas switches things up to honor his heritage by selling Cubano sandwiches, pastelitos stuffed with guava cream cheese, flán, and red beans and rice with yuca.

1515 N Courthouse Rd
Arlington, VA 22201

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