Veggie Guy: La Cubanita

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My fascination with other cultures started back in the summer of '87 during a family vacation to Disney World's Epcot Center.

Yep, Epcot Center. I know what you're thinking, but I remember dragging my folks around each prefabricated little country, collecting knick-knacks and sweets from shops along the way. Incidentally, I returned home with a trunk load of junk and deep curiosity for life outside of Brownsville, Texas. Since then, I've done a little more traveling (that actually required a passport), and have enjoyed learning about the many accidentally-vegan dishes from around the world.

But who can afford to go abroad these days? Not me. Maybe that's why I'm such a sucker for Lombardi restaurants. It's kinda like jet-setting, only you don't have to get too far outside your comfort zone.

On a lazy Monday afternoon, I decided to hit up La Cubanita (by Lombardi) with a couple of friends. The popular Cuban-inspired café & bar is located in the Knox-Henderson area near several other hot spots, so it's not uncommon to see the joint packed with a patio full of pretty people. That particular day, however, we managed to find the place nearly empty.

Admittedly, it was well after lunch rush, and before early-bird dinner. But still--isn't Monday a national hairdresser holiday? And aren't there scores of hairdressers around here to make all that big Dallas hair? Oh, well--more rum for us.

Salsa music filled the vacant room. Celia Cruz, India, Tito Nieves--all of my favorites! I was tempted to shift the tables around to work on my moves. (I do what some might call "zombie-salsa", so a little private practice would've been nice.) But after that all too familiar stink eye from my friends, I knew dancing would have to wait. This day was for lounging. Our host/waiter/bartender was great. He juggled his many duties with ease,muddling mint and limes for mojitos, vocally assigning seats to arriving customers, and even dealing with my pesky questions regarding ingredients in dishes...all from behind the bar.

So what CAN vegans eat at La Cubanita? Salads, mostly. But vegans can also create a decent-sized meal by compiling several side dishes, nixing the sour cream, and chasing them down with a mojito. The Tostones con Mojo Cubano are twice-cooked crispy green plantains served with a black bean dip and garlic dipping sauce. Yucca fries are served with the same garlic sauce, but don't be afraid to douse them in ketchup like I did. Black beans, sweet potato fries, and mixed vegetables are also vegan.

Some days, an accidentally-vegan soup is available. But who needs that on a hot summer day? Another mojito, please.

So we went to town on our munchies, sipped on our Cuban cocktails, and enjoyed our lazy day to the sound of Latin beats. Maybe on my next day-cation, I'll travel to Brussels by way of Toulouse.

La Cubanita
4444 McKinney Ave.

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