I have loved every moment of my time at St. John’s except for one unfortunate situation: I have been unable to find a suitable cure to my longing for the deliciousness which is Cuban food. I consider myself an overall lover of food. Growing up in a Cuban household, I was exposed to some delicious food and unfortunately took this for granted.
When I moved to Queens to begin my time at St. John’s, I left this thing which I loved so much at home. Successfully, however, I have found the missing piece of my desire for Cuban food.
This is the tale of one Saturday afternoon in October when I went on one of the most magnificent journeys during my first semester at school. My roommates had left for a class trip and I had an uncontrollable desire for real Cuban food, which I had left back home in Bergen and Hudson County in New Jersey.
I had yelped and googled “the best Cuban restaurant in Manhattan.” This search ended in the discovery of a magnificent place just 11 miles away. Cuba, the land frozen in time for the past 50 years, had somehow been teleported to the small restaurant on West 56th street.
Prior to lunch, I walked to Central Park on West 59th street and glared at the awe-inspiring mammoth of a statue which depicts Cuban revolutionary and poet, Jose Marti, on a horse, but I digress. I finally saw the small restaurant in between two other buildings, and as I approached the restaurant, I began to hear the music and smell the food.
This immediately brings me back to my roots. Now, I may not have been born in Cuba or Miami, but I was born in the next best place. Bergen and Hudson County are home to some of the best and most delicious Cuban food I have ever had the privilege of tasting. There are no big chain restaurants. All the restaurants are small mom-and-pop style with an authentic feel. Tina’s had the exact same thing.
The people inside are even better; everyone looked like my grandparents and their friends. The customers all resembled the old Cubans who came here in the 1960’s. Tina’s has a delicious menu filled with classic Cuban meals, such as El Cubano, bistec, ropa vieja, pescado, arroz con frijoles negro and so much more.
When you walk inside the restaurant the first thing you see are a few table and then a glass counter top with emenadas de carne (of meat) and with other fillings inside. The walls are yellow studded with paintings from local artists. There is a narrow hallway which leads past the kitchen and into the main dining hall. The table are small, giving the place a romantic and cordial feeling.
The waiters and waitresses are all Hispanic and experts on the food there. The food came out to my table within 15 minutes of me ordering it. I had a Cuban sandwich and rice with black beans. I recommend both as they were some of the best rice and beans and Cuban sandwich I’ve ever had.
The meal, of course, can only be correctly finished with the infamous Cuban Coffee (and if you’re looking for something sweet, flan is the way to go as a delicious dessert).