the following review is *long* so in a nutshell; my cuba libre findings:
-failed to advise me that the late-night menu would be served at the time i made my reservations
-rude, touchy-feely security guards
-extremely rude, unaccommodating waitress
-food... half good, half horrendous
now on to the gory details...
after a pleasing visit to cuba libre during restaurant week, i decided to try it out again this weekend.
so i didn't plan ahead, my fault, i called for reservations late friday afternoon for dinner later that evening. the earliest they had was 11pm; fine. i arrived at 10:30 to a bar that was filled so far over maximum capacity you couldn't get to the hostess' table. after asking drunkards nicely to move (P.S. it doesn't work), i had to resort to pushing and shoving. they said my table would be ready in a few minutes; fine.
in the meantime i decided to hit the restroom, which i'd remember from last time was upstairs. on my way through the doorway to the dining room and stairs, i was physically stopped rather rudely by a security guard. what...??? security guard at a restaurant? come on, it's not *that* nice a place. he told me to head to the restroom in the back of the bar. OK, so i chalked it up to learning something new and pushed and shoved my way past the entire overcrowded bar to a unisex single bathroom with a huge line and another security guard who guided us by the shoulders to the appropriate places to stand in line and dictated the pace at which we moved forward. not a big deal to some, but i do NOT like being touched purposefully by strangers.
by the time i made it through the line and then back across the length of the bar, our table was ready and my company had already been seated. the hostess pointed upstairs and left me to find my own way. i had to explain to another overbearing security guard that we were supposedly already seated. finally i find my table in the back room, which was much quieter than the rest of the place, and i pick up my menu which looks more like a brochure. first thing i noticed was "late night menu" printed across the top. i should have noted the disgust of the patrons at the table next to us, who promptly tossed the menus down, got up and left. i'll bet they weren't told they'd be getting the sandwich menu when they made their reservations, either.
after fifteen minutes of impatiently looking around for some sign of a waitress, she appears with a 'give me trouble and i'll kill you' look about her. i ignore the look, and ask for a regular menu. i mean, the other tables around us were still being served hot entrees - i figured it wouldn't kill anyone to serve me a hot entree. i don't make the trek down to old city for a sandwich if i want a real meal. she promptly denied me, and i shot back with the fact that there were no meatless entrees on the late-night menu (so there's only one on the regular menu; so what?). she said i could have the black bean hummus and the kitchen still had some yucca fries left over. so, whatever... i order both appetizers and a mojito. my company ordered steak (the only non-sandwich entree on the menu) and a mojito.
the mojitos arrive a cool fifteen minutes later, which made me wonder what took so long - there was absolutely no trace of alcohol in them (though i vaguely remember this little fault from last time i'd dined there, too, after downing six of them). i noticed the other tables had all received bread, so i asked our waitress if we could have some, too and again my request was denied. 'we don't serve bread with the late-night menus,' apparently. at that point, we were pretty close to throwing down $3 for our glorified sprite with mint leaves and stalking out; but our dinner (yes, my chips and french fries) arrived immediately afterwards.
i do have to admit, the black bean hummus is fantastic, even though you can tell it had been prepared hours before as the parts of the plantain chips that were artfully placed in the hummus were soggy. still, delicious. also delicious was the herb aioli that is served with the yucca fries; though the fries themselves tasted like they'd been sitting under a heat lamp for 3 days. i guess for food served long after their executive chef has probably left for the day, i really couldn't complain. on the other hand, after starving myself from lunchtime to midnight, probably anything i ate would have tasted good. maybe i shouldn't give too much credit, then. my company's steak was 'fatty' and apparently made her violently ill later on in the evening.
so, long story short, avoid cuba libre at all costs after 10pm or so. i wish i'd gotten my waitress' name, so i could advise you to avoid her at all costs as well.
good point of the evening: before dinner we'd strolled old city (i think it's old city, anyway, i'm new here... 2nd/3rd and market area) to find a good spot for pre-dinner drinks. i'm almost ashamed to admit i like an overpriced martini in a trendy lounge while my company prefers a good beer at a gritty sports bar. after passing multiple bars that appealed to one of us but not the other, we stumbled upon Charlie's (or something like that) on 3rd street - which we immediately dubbed the multiple personality bar... it was equally inviting to each of our opposite personalities. chic little curvy booths with a modern fabric print, dark swanky atmosphere with little halogen lights and tealights lighting the bar... and then several televisions playing a basketball game (i thought cartoon blinking eyeballs would be more fitting!) and a not-so-chic view into the kitchen, which, from the smell, served decent bar/comfort food. there was a fabulous sound system which played black sabbath, then gwen stefani, followed by more black sabbath. it was hilarious, but it confused my senses; i wasn't sure if i should order a glass of wine or a jack and coke. so i ordered both. even the patrons looked confused about their own identities. great little place for people watching, friendly servers, *strong* (reasonably priced) drinks and what a little conversation-starter of a place! i'll definitely go back.