Amid an influx of entirely too many yuppy Italian restaurants, Fort Lauderdale’s primary artery will soon get a Cuban restaurant.
And it’s a damn good one.
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar — which has existing locations in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. — is expected to open at the 9,200-square-foot space at 800 E. Las Olas Blvd. this fall.
Details on the restaurant are starting to emerge, spanning its design to what will be featured on its menu. Aesthetically, the spot will have seating for 250, high ceilings, and a massive 15-foot wood-burning Latin Grill.
On the grub front, chef-partner Guillermo Pernot is stoked to bring a different side of Cuban cuisine to South Floridians.
“The new generation that lives in South Florida is exposed to the type of cuisine going on in Havana like never before,” Pernot says. “They’re traveling to Cuba all the time ... and we all have a better vision of what’s going on with today’s Cuban food. We are going to have a great time showing the type of food that Cubans make today.”
While Pernot is still finalizing the Fort Lauderdale menu, there are some notable favorites from other Cuba Libre locations that will likely make the cut. These offerings span Havana-inspired dishes to recipes stemming from Pernot’s rural journeys including coconut crab fritters, a pineapple guacamole, and guava barbecue ribs.
As for Pernot’s personal favorites?
“It is so unfair as a chef to ask that because I love so much we do,” he says laughing. “With that being said, meat on the grill is one of the best things in the world for me. We do a skirt steak that is farm-raised and grass-fed that is fantastic. Also, our slow-cooked pork shank with a crispy skin is one of my favorites, too.”
Pernot’s journey with Cuba Libre began more than 15 years ago in Philadelphia. While owning his own Cuban restaurant, now-partners Barry Gutin and Larry Cohen approached him to consult on opening the very first Cuba Libre in the City of Brotherly Love. Pernot later closed his restaurant and joined the duo to help expand the brand.
“And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 15-plus years,” Pernot says. “It’s been a lot of living out of a suitcase at times, helping our restaurants, fixing any problems, and putting our best food forward.”
A big step in bringing the Fort Lauderdale restaurant to life will be finding the right people to represent its growing brand. The company will interview for management and culinary team positions at the restaurant’s new location on Sunday, March 1, from 2 to 6 p.m. and on Tuesday, March 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I’m looking forward to being in Florida again,” Pernot says. “It’s going to be a lot of work and certainly intense at times. But, everyone will come and enjoy us for who and what we are.”
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar. 800 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; cubalibrerestaurant.com. Opening fall 2020.