I sat in the darkly lit dining room, sipping on my glass of ice water as I waited for my food, thinking back about how I got here.
I had a few leads about a Cuban food truck or two in town, but they didn’t really pan out. Knowing that I’ve been looking to write about this Oklahoma City culinary rarity, Patrick messaged me a couple weeks ago, asking if I had heard of Paladar Cubano.
No, I hadn’t.
But I went by there this past weekend, expecting nothing more than another Cuban-lite menu, bolstered by a heavy Tex-Mex selection. But Paladar Cubano, 2323 SW 29th, was not like that at all—no tacos, no enchiladas, not even one of those eponymous sandwiches that everyone thinks about when they learn where you’re going. This was (thank God) authentic Cuban food as its finest.
As I walked in, a muscular man stood outside the door like an extra in a straight-to-video movie. The place itself was darkly lit as a hostess was by the register, taking a couple of phone orders. A guy and a couple of women in a low-muted conversation were the only customers in the joint, sipping drinks at the bar.
I requested a glass of the aforementioned ice water and placed my order. I sat there and struck up a back and forth with the guy. He told me that he comes from Norman to get the food here, a pretty good recommendation, better than a couple of anonymous blurbs on Yelp. He also said I needed to get some of the green sauce—he really wasn’t sure what it was called—but told the hostess to get me a couple of small cups of it.
He wasn’t wrong.
I dipped my lone appetizer, the Beef Empanada ($2.50) in it and a multifaceted sensation came over me and my soul, one that I had to somewhat stifle. I mean, with its low-key swing and swagger, in a place like this I was trying so hard to be medium cool but as I continually bit down on the dough-encrusted meat pie, I failed in that respect.
“See…I told you,” the guy coolly told me as he took a swig from his can of beer.
As he got up to go outside, I started in on the Palomilla Steak Sandwich ($10.00). With slices of thin cut sirloin that’s been marinated in lime juice and garlic and then pan fried, this tenderly rough and tumble sandwich puts the constant asks for that typically requested sandwich to shame as I tore into it, once again using the green sauce as an agent of flavor.
I couldn’t finish it though as I needed to try the national dish of Cuba, the Ropa Vieja ($14.00) with a beautiful double-side of Sweet Plantains and Boiled Cassava. As the Cuban national anthem ran through my head—“La Bayamesa” in case you were wondering—I opened the container and breathed in the stewed beef and all its bell pepper delights, inhaling it deep.
As I began to feast on it, one of the women started talking to me, asking what I ordered. I didn’t mean to be rude but before I could answer I had a full load of meat in my mouth, eyes drawing back in my skull as the sweet and tender strings of meat with all its God-given juices baptized me in the middle of the darkly lit Paladar Cubano.
I wiped my mouth and told her the Ropa Vieja and that she should order it too, but instead she had another drink. I’m not sure what. Cómpralo ya!
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