Being a Miami native and half Cuban, I’m always on the hunt for good Cuban cuisine. So when I heard about Beni’s Cubano opening up at The Avenue East Cobb in Marietta last month, I was eager to give them a try. The verdict? While Beni’s might not be on the same level as a corner restaurant in Little Havana (let’s face it, few restaurants are), this new eatery dishes out some solid dishes that should satisfy your cravings for Cuban fare. Head over to this intimate slice of a restaurant—boasting colorful décor, a beautifully tiled bar counter and the subtle sounds of salsa music playing in the background—and order one of these six things (or all of them)…
Chicken & Cheese Empanadas
Easily our favorite item on the menu. A creamy, melty blend of chicken and cheese inside a hot little envelope of crispy yet soft empanada. They’re good enough to devour without the dipping sauces offered, but even tastier dabbed in a little of the mojo sauce (a classic Cuban mix of citrus, roasted garlic, olive oil and vinegar).
Essentially just crispy green plantain chips, mariquitas—good ones at least—can be hard to come by. Some are too thick, others too greasy. Beni’s mariquitas are just right and come in long strips (versus rounds) that are extra-thin and light, with just the right touch of salt. These addictive strips add a nice crunch as a side to munch on or an appetizer to kick off the meal (like many Cuban restaurants in Miami that serve them in a big basket like the free chips and salsa you’re probably used to getting at Mexican spots). Dip them in one of the sauces or enjoy them plain and simple.
La Flaca cocktail
For a refreshing sip that cleverly disguises the alcohol within, try La Flaca—a cocktail crafted from Rumhaven coconut liquer and Vita coconut water. Light, crisp and dangerously easy to polish off.
Mojo grilled chicken with black beans and maduros
Sure you can order classics like a Cuban sandwich or some vaca frita, but don’t miss out on the mojo grilled chicken that packs a surprisingly flavorful punch thanks to garlic and spices, plus grilled onions and peppers. Squeeze some lime on top and enjoy it with a side of black beans (well seasoned and a little soupy in traditional Cuban style) and some maduros (sweet plantains) that can go head to head with those from many South Florida Cuban restaurants (they’re still not as good as a homemade batch from a Cuban abuela, but I’ve yet to meet a restaurant anywhere that can do this).
Like all good Cubans, I enjoy a side of sugar with my sugar. Enter Beni’s house-made bread pudding with golden raisins, pecans, whipped cream and dulce de leche caramel. This dessert is pure decadence in every spoonful. And it’s served hot for an extra-goey treat.
Wash down your dessert with a cafecito and order a tiny cup of the Cuban coffee—an espresso-style coffee with sugar espuma to sweeten it up. The bold drink has a rich deep coffee bean flavor that’s not bitter in the least. (The coffee—which you can also buy a bag of at the restaurant—is a private blend developed by World Trader Coffee after meeting several times with Chef Cesar Velazquez to get the taste just right.) If you have a little whipped cream left over, drop a dab in and swirl around to create a makeshift cortadito—now you’re really eating like a Cuban.
4475 Roswell Rd., Ste. 1510a, Marietta, 404-348-4394, beniscubano.com