Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, Caribbean and African influences, resulting in an interesting mixture of spices and flavors. Rice and beans are common in just about every dish, as are tropical fruits and root vegetables. And of course, you can't forget the drinks, including the classic Cuban mojito. Best of all, Cuban cuisine lends itself well to a fun restaurant atmosphere. And the best Cuban restaurants in Philadelphia are no exception. Pick any of these top spots to enjoy both traditional Cuban dishes such as ropa vieja and seafood paella, as well as more innovative items like gluten-free versions of old favorites.
Mixto (Credit, Michelle Hein)
1141 Pine St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
As the name suggests, Mixto offers a mixture of cuisine: Cuban, Latin American and Caribbean. And it's all delicious. The ropa vieja is flavorful and fork tender, making it a favorite along with the paella. With chicken, Cuban chorizo and an abundance of seafood, the paella is well worth the 25-minute wait. It can be ordered as a single or double portion to share. Or, come on Wednesdays during dinner and enjoy $5 paella samples. Whatever you order, you'll want to sip a traditional Cuban mojito with it.
Cuba Libre (Credit, Michelle Hein)
10 S. 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
A meal at Cuba Libre is the closest you'll get to Havana in Philadelphia. The updated Cuban menu along with high vaulted ceilings, replicas of building facades and topical plants complete the experience. Start your meal with a glass (or pitcher) of the outstanding sangria and a few tapas like beef and potato croquettes or yuca fries. Then move on to ropa vieja, a Cuban sandwich, or shrimp in a mango mojito sauce. Come back after dinner hours when Cuba Libre becomes a dance club with a DJ and professional Latin dancers heating up the dining room.
Related: Top Sangria in Philadelphia
Alma de Cuba (Credit, Michelle Hein)
Alma de Cuba
1623 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Executive chef and owner of Alma de Cuba, Douglas Rodriguez, offers updated Latin cuisine that honors his Cuban roots. And since this is a Stephen Starr restaurant, it's no surprise that the atmosphere is top notch. You'll feel like you're on vacation while enjoying dishes such as scallop ceviche, rum-cured duck and Cuban shrimp and grits. While the mojitos are outstanding, the more unique cocktails like the Havana Old Fashioned made with housemade cigar bitter, bourbon, pomegranate seeds and orange juice are definitely noteworthy.
Related: Top Tasting Menus In Philadelphia
4535 N. 5th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19140
For a restaurant in North Philly, Tierra Colombiana conveys a notable Miami vibe. Unlike many restaurants these days that go for a fusion model, this spot offers a menu that is half Cuban and half Columbian. Large portions and meals prepared with classic methods makes this a favorite in the Spanish community. Highlights of the menu include the seafood paella, Cuban fried chicken and shrimp mofongo. Friday through Sunday night, you can keep the party going from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the recently renovated night club on the second floor.
Casona of Collingswood
563 Haddon Ave.
Collingswood, NJ 08108
The historic mansion that is now home to Casona of Collingswood has a rich history dating back to 1905 before it began serving Cuban and Latin American cuisine in 2006. If you're visiting on a nice night, try to call ahead for a reservation because the beautifully restored wrap-around porch fills up quickly. The Habana Madura is a favorite on the appetizer menu, consisting of a whole plantain that's been fried and topped with melted cheeses, chayote, sour cream and your choice of ropa vieja, chicken or lechon. Innovative vegetarian versions of classic Cuban dishes and plenty of identified gluten-free options makes Casona a great place for diners with special menu needs. It's BYOB, so be sure to bring a bottle of whatever you'd like to enjoy with your meal.
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Michelle Hein is a copy editor for a women's fashion company in Bucks County by day and a self-proclaimed food and drink fanatic by night and weekend. She enjoys attending wine classes, trying new recipes in the kitchen and going to old favorites and new restaurants alike in the Bucks County and Philadelphia area. If the writing gig doesn't pan out, she constantly dreams of owning her own bakery…perhaps connected to the restaurant/bar that her lawyer boyfriend would love to open.