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Laura’s – one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life, in the lowliest of locations. Big thanks to those Chowhounders from a couple of years ago who led us there and my wife for introducing me to Chowhound! Here’s an update.
Married to a foodie and living in SF, I feel like I’m pretty spoiled. So to find this absolute gem amidst the unrelenting tourist trap of Hollywood FL was doubly thrilling. And triply so for “hole in the wall factor” and incredible food.
Yes, it looks like a perilous pizza parlor, but with worse lighting. Yes, we almost turned around. Mercifully we didn’t.
One could sprinkle superlatives liberally on Laura, but the one that counts is “authentic”. These are her mother’s recipes, faithfully recreated. This is the owner who’s serving and guiding you. This is the real Cuban thing, but not just Cuban - as Laura says “Pre-Castro Cuba”. There’s something of that wildness in the fabulous flavors of this simple but oh-so-delicious food.
But first! The beer. “There’s the fridge. Help yourself”. Now the fridge is almost the width of the restaurant. It contains – god knows how many fantastic beers from all over the world, at unbelievably low prices. Obscure stout from my old country (England) that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Lagers, IPA’s from all over, specialist brews from as far away as – Oakland! We settled down with a couple of beautiful Belgians and no surprise, went back for more. At $6 a bottle, it’s churlish not too.
We started with the coconut shrimp. I try this every (rare) chance I get and used to be addicted to a version in LA, but this trumps that. Not just sweet, but complex, almost sweet and sour flavor, with a coconut crust so crunchy-fried perfect it would make tempura chefs weep. We knew we were onto something. Laura brought us a baked plantain side with a simple, light lemon dipping sauce to go with it, “because you must with the shrimp”. For free.
First good idea – let Laura guide you. My friend had never had oxtail, but wanted something beefy and rich and Laura persuaded him. Absolutely hit the nail on the head, a huge plate of smoky, dense, dark deliciousness. He’s been converted to oxtail, which is bit tricky because I’m not sure he’ll find that good again, anywhere. I went for – I kid you not – “cow friend pork with onions” and it was sublime: sweet, sticky, tangy, addictive. We were encouraged to try the rice and beans and whereas in many places this is a starchy side-act, here it had an unbelievably nutty flavor worthy of the main stage. And the fried plantains – well, you might say how can they not be good? – but these were so much more than sweet and took me back to the flavor I first tasted at Versailles in Venice. At Laura’s, perhaps I finally tapped into the true version.
We were more than well satisfied - but I had to ask. “Yes, we have flan and it’s home made”. Loosen whatever is necessary and make room for this. It’s small, light, incredibly rich, and puts the insipid crème caramel to shame.
Turns out that Laura’s kids are trying to cajole her into retirement. I hope you get the chance to go before that much deserved, but disastrous, event.
Luara’s Cuban Restaurant
2723 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, FL 33020
(954) 921 9990
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