In Palm Beach County, we know good Cuban food. From Jupiter to Boca Raton, there are literally dozens of establishments that specialize in peddling meat-filled empanadas, hand-pressed cuban sandwiches, homemade pulpeta (Cuban meatloaf), velvety flan and a colada.
Luckily, the area also boasts a wide range of Cuban concepts, everything from authentic upscale restaurants to small, family-style eateries. But it's the casual walk-up counter spots -- the cafe Cubanos open all hours of day and night -- that seem to present the most authentic experience. And that's exactly what you'll find at El Bohio, a long-time Cuban pit stop off Federal Highway in Lantana.
In Cuba, the bohío is the name for the traditional hut or housing originally developed by the island's aboriginal groups. In Lantana, it's the name for owner Blas Serpa's small stand-alone restaurant with a busy, walk-up order counter. The casual space is reminiscent of the country's cafes, with two dining areas -- one an exposed (yet covered) outdoor patio, and a second equally casual indoor dining room.
Serpa, a former Cuban hotel worker who fled the country in 1994, has a remarkable success story. He purchased the building -- once a small bar -- nearly two decades ago, just two years after arriving in Florida, transforming it into one of the area's most authentic Cuban eateries.
At its core, Cuban cuisine is simple, but robust, and heavily spiced with garlic and onion. You'll find it that way at El Bohio, where dishes are prepared simply -- meats like pork and chicken prepared for stews, soups, platters and sandwiches. The menu offers it all, a wide range of dishes beginning with appetizers, a series of small plates that combine traditional Cuban dishes with American classics with a Latin touch ($2-$13.50). Here, the chicken wings come with plantains. A favorite is the seafood ceviche, a mixture of shrimp, scallop, muscles and octopus in a tangy tomato broth, served in a fried tortilla bowl.
Pastries like croquettes, stuffed potatoes and empanadas ($2) are the least expensive option, a perfect pairing with any of the 10 or so sandwiches. The Cubano comes out hot from the press, large chunks of marinated pork and thick-sliced ham stuffed into a flaky Cuban loaf ($5.99). You can also find a plain roast pork or bistec (steak) sandwich, or a BLT and Philly Cheese Steak. More authentic Cuban meals can be found with the chicken, steak and pork dishes -- larger plates served with rice, beans and sweet plantains ($11.99-$18.95). End the meal with a colada -- sweet, rich Cuban coffee served in a tall glass mug.
El Bohio is located at 101 S. Third St. in Lantana. For more information, call 561-586-5867.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.
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