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This article appears in the May 2011 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

Written by Jack Welch

There aren’t any palm trees or island breezes in the Clifton neighborhood, but there is a tangible taste of the tropics on display at Cubana (2206 Frankfort Ave., 409-4828), whose decor and menu deliver a distinct Caribbean vibe. Owned and staffed by Cubans, with a wonderful Cuban duo providing lilting guitar-and-bongo music on the weekends, the restaurant has a huge menu, including close to two dozen entrées and a long list of hot, cold and mixed-temperature tapas.

A rewarding summer selection is the Cubana-Santiago cold appetizer ($9) from the trio headed Tapas Cubanas Frias. Surrounding a mound of crabmeat topped by a chilled shrimp is a circle of diced avocado and apple-mango salsa, everything drizzled with a small amount of red-pepper honey. Our last time there we ordered it along with the Mariquitas & Guacamole ($7) — another way to enjoy chunky avocado pieces, this time with tomato, cilantro, roasted mild poblano chiles and crispy long plantain chips for dipping.

The restaurant’s turquoise and melon faux-stucco color scheme, with small island paintings and Cuban posters on the walls, adds more zest to the atmosphere, and the cute little raised bar in the rear is a great place for solo dining. About the live music: The abovementioned duo play on Friday and Saturday, and on Tuesday and Thursday a musician wanders through the dining room playing an electric violin.

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Didn't I tell you? I run this place! Not much goes on here without me knowing...I'm always watching.

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