Monday, November 2, 2009

Soul de Cuba: Cruz Control

No matter your political allegiance Cuba is romantic. Whether it be a Batistan robber- baron’s blonde daughter sunning herself year round beside an American owned hotel pool, or a bearded man in jungle fatigues loading his rifle for sake of an idealized egalitarian society: the images of Cuba are beautiful. We do not know if the Cuban people are happier with the abolition of democracy because Anthony Bourdain has yet to receive air clearance in order to inform us, but regardless, the food is a more welcomed export than Scarface's Tony Montana. Regardless of the rain we're always in search of a little revolutionary romance. We lit our Cuban cigars, unbuttoned our Hawaiian shirts, opened the umbrellas and strolled the puddled streets of New Haven towards Soul De Cuba.

Before entering Soul de Cuba we saw the beautiful decor through the large glass windows. The muted orange walls hide behind many small black framed pictures of people, animals, and glimpses of Cuban life. Are they friends, relatives, or national heroes? We have no idea. All we know is that they are beautiful. The inside of the restaurant is small enough where thirty people can easily pack the place. The tiny five table dining room is divided from the bar by a conga drum and its raised display area housing the drum. You can look but can’t touch; the drum is roped off. Who, we ask ourselves, would have the audacity to unsolicitedly provide their own dinner music?

The music is funky, light, and unobtrusive. Hans dug it like Dr. Grant looking for a velociraptor's big toe, while Mendez wanted hard and heavy salsa music blaring. To his disdain requests were not being honored. Our personable server added warmth to our experience on this rainy day, a weather condition misconstrued as miserable. Water is refilled and a well trained eye knew when more beer was called for. We each ordered a soup appetizer and a sandwich. Like Salsa music, pork sandwiches are best served hot. For an even better pork sandwich serve it with a pickle and side salad. The sandwich's Swiss cheese drips down your chin, forcing you to take another bite for risk of looking like a fool. The black been soup is simple and priced right. If the word gets out it might replace Mamoun’s for New Haven's cheap protein fix. Soul de Cuba is also home of Cristal: an immensely pleasurable light beer. Contrary to its name sake, those with good taste whom do not fabricate urban recording artists for reality television can enjoy this refreshment. The slight buzz and good company made eating the food twice as fun.

Soul de Cuba is prime real estate in New Haven. A block over from the pseudo-intellectual/artistic/self-important clutter of Chapel St. and far enough from eternally juvenile nevereverland of clubs to be quiet and cozy. It's the type of restaurant one dreams of owning. We'd do the decor a little different and we'd roll our own cigars if given the opportunity (tobacco and non tobacco fillings). We'd keep the vintage Cuban magazine covers done over as cartoons. We'd keep the cigar box counter. We'd toss Teddy Roosevelt's smug portrait and burn effigies of William Randolph Hearst on the sidewalk. As we admired the restaurant out loud, praising it's location, our server said something that struck us as funny. We asked her to repeat it as to write it down. It was not until our Yahooligans! search that we realized her quote went unattributed. She said, "Nine-tenths of the people were created so you would want to be with the other tenth."

Of course, being our readers, we don't have to tell you those words of wisdom were spoken by Horace Walpole, fourth Earl of Orfard, a man who may have bathed with pigs centuries before the Bay of Pigs. We did not understand why she would quote such a fellow until passing by the Yale Center for British Art where a collection of Walpole's Gothic junk is on display. High Culture is not beneath us, so we examined the museum. If you are a fan of paintings, particularly those of lavish green hillsides, mighty horses, lions sinking their teeth into horses, a horse on a lavish green hillside, or bridges (with and without horses), you will enjoy every minute of this rusty mausoleum. We're not saying not to visit, just keep in mind its like decaf tea with low sugar crumpets. For fans of spooky British literature visit the third floor for a heavy dose of Walpole.