If you were to throw together a list of cuisines that are underrepresented in the population of Dallas restaurants, Cuban would have to be near the top of that list. There are a couple joints scattered about, but only to the effect that they leave a tiny fingerprint in a city capable of accommodating much more.
Enter The Latin Pig, a new place up in the brazen wilderness of Plano. Don't look for the name anywhere on the exterior of the double-decker shopping center in which it resides. Instead, look for a temporary banner that says "Cuban Cuisine" strung up on the first floor of the Custer-facing facade on the southwest corner of Parker and Custer. That alone will save you about 20 minutes of inept laps around the retail complex.
Despite its generic outer appearance, the inside is charming. Turquoise vinyl-covered booths and large Cuban-themed artwork emit the vibe of Havana without veering into kitschy. Trendy light fixtures hang over each high-backed booth, lending a coziness to the experience even though you're feet away from the ordering line.
The only real flaw on an initial visit was the lack of air conditioning. So much so, a deep sigh of relief was uttered upon leaving the restaurant and stepping into a comparatively-icy 92 degree Texas evening. Perhaps it was a strange attempt to cultivate a tropical atmosphere, but more likely it was just one of those new-restaurant growing pains.
Upon stepping up to the counter, the folks running the show are more than happy to walk you through the menu of Cuban staples sprinkled with a few native departures. Most of the food is served cafeteria-style, with things such as sandwiches delivered after a few minutes from the kitchen. Some highlights of the menu include the Cuban sandwich, pollo guisado and a wide swath of pupusas. Egg-forward breakfast items greet the early rising crowd, and there of course fruit-filled pastries and croissants to sate any cravings for flakier delicacies.
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When going to a place called The Latin Pig, it seemed only natural to sample some of the swine dishes. My dining companion and I picked the lechon (pork roasted for 6 hours) with congri (Cuban black bean and rice mixture) and the Cuban sandwich. The lechon and congri ($10.99) were fantastic. The pork retains its sublime juices, while the congri, speckled with bay leaves and roasted peppers, acts as a subtle yet flavorful complement.
The Cuban sandwich ($6.99) does a fine dance on its own as well. Sliced ham and shredded lechon work in tandem with generously-applied cheese and paper-thin pickles. The delicious filling is held together by a buttery, pressed Italian loaf. The bread becomes a bit greasy from the liberal application of brushed butter, but it's still a fantastic foray into Havanese cuisine.
The Latin Pig is located at 3131 Custer Rd Suite 165, Plano, TX 75075. It is open Monday through Sunday from 11:00 AM to 8:00PM.