"It's a family business, started in North Miami by my father, Jorge Sr.," said Jorge Alvarez Jr., who manages the Deerfield restaurant. "This is the food we grew up with, that our parents and grandparents brought from Cuba. However, we've found that most of our business is from other cultural groups. Once they try our cuisine, they're hooked." The prices are just as good as the meals. For lunch, you can choose from nine offerings, including shredded beef, roast pork, ground beef and their famous lamb shank. The lunch specials start at $5.95.
For dinner, you might choose a pork fillet simmering in a tangy tamarindo sauce or breaded fish that's broiled with a cilantro sauce. Little Havana skirt steak, prepared in a light parsley oil sauce. With each dinner, priced between $7.99 and $15.49, you get an individual loaf of home made, crusty Cuban bread. " A lot of people come here with the misconception that Cuban food is similar to Mexican food," Alvarez said. "Actually, there's very little in common. Mexico has a lot of regional dishes and some of them can be quite spicy. Cuban cooking doesn't blast your taste buds. The flavor comes from marinating and the combination of foods and spices." Little Havana has a full bar and a great Spanish sangria. Their wines come from Spain, Argentina and Chile, as well as the United States.
The Alvarez family is proud of the awards their restaurants have collected. The North Miami spot was named one of the best Cuban restaurants in Miami. In Deerfield, they were given three stars by restaurant critic Robert Tolf and an honorable mention in South Florida magazine as one of the best Latin restaurants in this region.
The Ropa Vieja was tender and deliciously seasoned shredded beef in a mild tomato sauce, with chunks of fresh tomato, onions, red and green peppers. (Ropa Vieja translates to "old clothes," probably because of the appearance of the shredded beef.) The serving of white rice was fluffy as well as generous. The black beans were thick and creamy. The fried plantains were sweet; not greasy. There also were two rolls. - BOBBIE TARTAGLINO