Sunday, December 30, 2018

Danzon Cubano, 1 Carlton Ave SE, Grand Rapids ~ 11/20/18

Named after an Aaron Copland composition, the restaurant opened last October on the ground floor of the Fulton Square building (corner of Carlton and Fulton).
The owner is not Cuban but according to their website, he was inspired by Cuban immigrants fleeing Castro's Cuba. The site mentions one particular person, and that his father was friends with Ernest Hemingway in Cuba, but the connection between them is not made clear, and Hemingway is just irrelevant.
Nonetheless, enter off of Carlton (street parking or park across the street at Family Fare) and you walk into a long rectangular space, tables laid out from the entrance to the far windows, with a bar on your left just after you enter. The entrance wall is covered by a map of Cuba and posters of well-known Cubans.
The bar is a lovely piece of work. Some (maybe all?) of the wood looks repurposed, and in a space that is otherwise not warm or cozy, the bar is a stand-out.
We took a table at the far end of the restaurant and were promptly served by a friendly and informative server, Courtney.
We first asked what was behind this mystery door in the middle of the wall :-) It turns out it's a very small office.
After perusing the menu, we began our dining adventure with Tostones Rellenos (twice-fried plantains) stuffed with spicy shrimp. The plantain cups were spicy but the shrimp not so much. The house-made citrus & garlic sauce that was served with the plantains, however, called Mojo, was a delicious accompaniment! All in all, it was a very fine dish.
The Cuban sandwich has been tried in pretty much every restaurant we have ever been in, so today it was a must-have and it did not disappoint. In fact, we are claiming that this is the best Cubano you will find in Grand Rapids (mojo-braised pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, house-made pickles on Cuban-style bread), all the flavors blended and mashed together to form the perfect Cubano.
There are many vegetarian options if you're dining out with non-meat eaters and the Tamal en Cazuela sounded too interesting to resist (Cuban-style polenta with bell peppers, onion, garlic and seasoned ground tempeh, served in a tomato white-wine sauce). It was impressive, full of flavor and texture contrasts.
We noticed that the tables near us were black and the rest of the room was filled with brown tables. The reason for that is the black tables are removed on the weekends for a dance floor. Color-coded tables :-)
With all of the windows it would be difficult to over-decorate but what they have done is tasteful and clever. Some tall greenery hides a service station.
We sat overlooking their patio, which we hope to enjoy this summer. We also appreciated the paper straws.
We are looking forward to returning here soon. Danzon Cubano is a great addition to Grand Rapids!