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by Daniella Ramirez, staff writer

From the moment you step into the Soul de Cuba Café, you feel as if you have left Honolulu for the Caribbean. The warm-tone walls, decorated with pictures of the owners’ family and colorful Caribbean paintings move the guests into a world a 1,000 miles away. The lively Cuban music reinforces the feelings of color and passion that fill the soul.

For appetizers, the empanadas are an excellent choice. These lightly fried beef filled pastry shells might look simple at first, but don’t let the simplicity trick you. This traditional dish served in many South American countries is rich in taste.

For those with more daring appetites, the “soul sampler” for $15 provides a taste of all the appetizers, including devil crabs,—freshly seasoned crab meat fried in bread crumbs, and camarones bailando,—sautéed jumbo shrimps marinated with a special black bean spicy sauce.

The menu’s wide variety of entrees include pollo (chicken), carnes (beef and pork), and mariscos (seafood). Even though everything is excellent, the most popular choice is the ropa vieja, which literally translates into “old clothes.” But don’t let the name stop you from trying it, since this is a traditional dish which consists of shredded beef cooked slowly with onions in a delicate tomato sauce, served with white rice, black beans and platanos maduros (fried bananas). You will be surprised how these simple ingredients are able to create a harmonious taste that leaves you wishing for more.

The best thing about the restaurant is the down-to-earth cuisine. It is precisely this homey element that lets diners walk out of the restaurant not only with a satisfied stomach but a joyful soul, and leaves them planning to return.

Location: 1121 Bethel St.


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