|Pork chops with beans, plantains and onions at Cuba De Ayer|
Cuba De Ayer renovated last year. It both doubled in size and amped up its glitz with a shiny new bar and dining room that make it a classic of our indigenous architecture: Strip mall on the outside, fancy restaurant inside.
On our last visit, we ate exactly the same meal that I think we had the two times before. A Cuban sandwich for Mrs. HowChow and a pork chop for me. They're both exceptional comfort food. The sandwich comes hot off the press so the cheese melts into the pork, ham, mustard and pickle. The pork chop comes on a plate so crowded that Mrs. HowChow was shocked that I could finish it.
You get beans and rice, sweet plantains ("maduros"), and a cup of sweet caramelized onions. Plus two thin-pork chops that remind me of casual meals in Miami 20 years ago. The seared edges have crunch and caramelized pieces. It's super-tender, and it's easy to slice into pieces and pair up with alternating beans, plantains and onions.
I keep ordering the pork chop because that's the flavor of Miami 1994 to me. But it's worth a visit even if you can't share the nostalgia. I'm sure much of Cuba de Ayer's menu is delicious. Mojitos and cuban coffee make every meal more fun.
This is part of a Worth Repeating series highlighting dishes and places that you should hear about even though they aren't new. I'm suggesting sandwiches, Chinese, ground chuck and other items that have been HowChow favorites for years.
The strip of Rte 198 in Burtonsville has a series of restaurants that make it worth the one-exit drive south of the Howard County border. It's a slight off drive because you exit, go around a traffic circle, and then drive the old road that parallels Rte 29. But once you turn right onto Rte 198, you can choose from Mexican (Chapala), Ethiopian (Soretti's), Afghan (a version of Maiwand Kabob), and more on your way to Cuba De Ayer.