Atwater Village is full of small, family-owned restaurants like Baracoa Cuban Cafe, a narrow and dimly lit spot that’s reminiscent of an old-school trattoria with its muraled walls, red jar candles, and short but sweet wine list. It’s also a perfect place for a quick lunch with a friend, or maybe a date with yourself for a Cubano, a glass of sangria, and a post-sandwich stroll around the block as you contemplate popping into one of the neighborhood’s many dive bars. The café serves Cuban classics like arroz con pollo, fried empanadas, and our favorite, ropa vieja. Considered to be Cuba’s national dish, ropa vieja is a salty shredded beef stew that somehow manages to make beef stew interesting for a change. For starters, Baracoa’s version comes as thick chunks of shredded meat in a dark tomato sauce packed with bell peppers, onion, garlic, and briny green olives. Enjoy it with a side of moros y cristianos, which is both a Medieval history reference and nickname for black beans and rice mixed together.
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