Latin Cabana Express is an instant sensation in Forest Hills, which evidently nursed a deep hunger for homey Cuban chow. Opened last month by the owners of Astoria’s popular Latin Cabana, it has been jammed from day one.

Early favorites include beef picadillo, goat fricassee, steak or chicken sandwiches, and juicy, well-marinated grilled chicken. fran124, who’s partial to the Cubano (roast pork, ham, and cheese on a pressed soft roll), considers the new place a quantum improvement over the empanada joint it replaced. “It’s about time,” declares maria_nyc. “This neighborhood needed a good, cheap Latin food place.”

Prices are a big draw. The $5.50 lunch special comprises an entrée (around four choices daily) and a couple of sides, which include salad, plantains, fries, garlicky yuca, and rice (white, yellow, or black). House specialties range from $8.25 to $9.95, and sandwiches are $2.75 to $4.50. For $3, try a fresh, cooling shake; guanábana (soursop) is one interesting choice.

The staff is friendly but frazzled, struggling to handle the crowds. There are a handful of stools, but this is mainly a takeout operation. A nearby alfresco option, weather permitting, is cozy MacDonald Park, a few blocks west off Queens Boulevard.

Latin Cabana Express [Forest Hills]
Formerly La Mancha Empanadas
72-34 Austin Street (between Ascan Avenue and 72nd Road), Forest Hills, Queens

Latin Cabana [Astoria]
34-44 Steinway Street (between 34th and 35th avenues), Astoria, Queens

Board Links: Cuban Fast Food on Austin Street

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