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.