5734 Watt Ave, North Highlands, California - (916) 332-2883.

Maybe I watched Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights one too many times but there's something about Cuba that I just find so damn intriguing. It's one of those places that I've been dying to visit. Bourdain recently did a No Reservations filming there and I hungrily devoured the episode. Is it the history of revolutions, the sultry culture or the fact that mojitos originated from this small country that pulls me towards it so? I dunno, but it fascinates me nonetheless.

Now there isn't much in the way of Cuban food in Sacramento. Almost nil, to be honest. Most of my exposure to Cuban food came as a small child visiting my uncle and his first wife in Miami. I remember eating spicy shrimp dishes with rice and fried sweet plantains in restaurants. My memory of those times is foggiest at best but I remember liking the food. So last week when a friend suggested that we do some food exploring and check out a Cuban restaurant she had heard about, I was game. Well that is until she disclosed that it was in North Highlands. But sometimes you gotta take one for the team...(and just hope you don't get shanked by some meth head while in the pursuit of some good chow). Sol Cubano, turned out to be in a clean, well maintained strip mall (and we went during daylight hours). The establishment itself was cute- red and white checkered tablecloths set against a colorful mural of a map of Cuba. I was a bit early for my lunchdate so I ordered a teeny cup of café cubano while I perused the menu. For lunch, I couldn't decide what to order and asked the waitress what she would recommend. She suggested several dishes and I decided to go with the Vaca Frita. [Note: Each lunch and dinner dish comes with a choice of white rice and a cup of bean soup or cuban rice and a small salad. I went will the cuban rice and small salad.] I also ordered a side order of Platanos Maduros Fritos (fried sweet plantains). ¡Ay Dios Mio! Everything was so delicious! The Vaca Frita (beef that has been cooked twice- first slow cooked, then marinated in a lime/garlic/salt, shredded and fried with onions until crispy) was AMAZING and usually I hate black beans but I loved the black beans that were in the cuban rice at Sol Cubano.

Mean girlfriend that I am, I sent photos of my lunch to Mr. S who was stuck at the office eating a Winco sandwich. I didn't feel too bad as he had just recently gotten back from an all expense paid trip to Florida (without me!) where he got to eat all kinds of delicious food, including Cuban food. My iron heart did relent a little later on and I agreed to take him to my new found eatery the next night for dinner (actually I just wanted to go back there for another meal, but we'll just let him think I'm really generous and kindhearted, ok?). The place was quite busy in the evening both with patrons dining in and with takeout, luckily we were able to score a table. We decided to order a Papa Rellena to start out with. Neither of us knew what this was and nodded our head when our waiter asked, "Only one?" Sure why not. Turned out a Papa Rellena was a deep fried baseball made of mashed potato with a core stuffed with seasoned ground beef. It's actually quite good; although it's quite daunting when it's presented to you- you're not quite sure whether to eat it or to huck it knuckball style. For my main course this time around, I decided to try the Ropa Vieja since it was one of the three dishes the waitress had recommended during the previous visit. "Ropa Vieja" means "Old Clothes" in Spanish so I was curious what I'd get. Mr. S. went with the Lechon Asado, a Cuban-style slow roasted pork. He gave the double thumbs up on this so it must have been damn good. My Ropa Vieja turned out to be shredded braised beef with a tomato-based sauce. It was quite tasty but I think I was more in love with the Vaca Frita, but they may be because I'm not a huge tomato lover like most.

Anyhow, I can't say enough good stuff about this little Cuban joint. It's seriously worth the trek out to the outlands of North Highlands. The drive isn't too bad, just grab a sherpa and head on down Watt Avenue, past the old McClellan AFB. The portions at Sol Cubano are good sized and the prices are reasonable. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and do takeout as well. If I remember correctly they close up pretty early (830pm?), so go plan on an early meal.

2 Responses
  1. QuestingElf Says:

    I many times choose side orders first when visiting a place to decide whether or not to return for main courses. I must say I was really impressed with Sol Cubano's renditions of Moros con Cristianos (black beans mixed in with rice) and their Yucca. Wow, I'm really impressed, especially when Cuban food is so hard to find in parts of California. (I was spoiled growing up in Miami / Miami Beach.)

    I'm torn between the Vaca Frita you reported and the Lechon Asado. I'm over in Citrus Heights, and will make this trip repeatedly.

  2. Ally Says:

    Last time I was there, I tried to convince them to open up shop in Midtown so I could eat there more often but they explained that the overhead for them to operate downtown was too much. So I guess I'll just have to keep trekking out to NoHi.

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