Driving through Carrollton, particularly around the intersection of Old Denton and Trinity Mills, it can be difficult to find a sit-down restaurant that doesn't serve Asian fare. But just down the road, traditional Cuban food is served seven days a week at Cuba Bella Cafe.
From the outside, the restaurant looks like any other old hole-in-the-wall in Carrollton, but dining here gives you a sweet taste of Cuba.
Owner Francisco Miguel Velez-Celaa left Cuba more than 13 years ago. He likes American food, but nothing compares to the food he grew to love back home.
One thing every patron should ask for their first time at Velez-Celaa’s place is the Cuba Bella Sampler ($10.50), a platter of fried Cuban deliciousness. It comes with two croquettes, one papa rellena, a beef empanada, a stack of yuca frita and is served with a side of lemon garlic sauce.
The croquettes are breaded, stuffed with cheese, mashed potatoes and ground ham. It starts with a crunch, then the inner workings of the croquette melt in your mouth like a truffle.
If you have not cured your craving for mashed potatoes after finishing the croquettes, it is time to move on to the papa rellena, a picadillo-stuffed potato. Before even puncturing it with your fork or knife, melted cheese oozes out from the top.
Next up on the Sampler is the beef empanadas. This is essentially just picadillo wrapped in baked dough. The picadillo consists of ground beef, green olives, raisins, red and green peppers, and onions.
Lastly, you will want to scarf down the stack of yuca frita, which are basically Cuban french fries, before your entree hits the table.
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By this point, you have been introduced to some major staples of Cuban cuisine. There is no turning back now. You simply cannot leave until every last bite of one of Cuba Bella’s sandwiches is wiped off the face of the planet and into your stomach. The pan con croquetas ($8.75) is the way to go. It is served on flaky Cuban bread with two croquetas, Swiss cheese, ham and mustard, with a side of fries.
Though you may think it is impossible to take another bite, it would not be a traditional Cuban dining experience without a Cafe Cubano ($2.50). The coffee might just put hair on your chest, so it's important to keep a pastry on standby. Every sip of the bitter Cuban coffee should be accompanied by a bite of the sweet, guava-stuffed pastelito ($1.85).
Cuba Bella Cafe, 2540 N. Josey Lane, Carrollton