By Wednesday, I was definitely craving some real Cuban food. Not wanting to make the two hour drive to Miami, I figured the Cuban food I could get in the Fort Myers metro area would be at least as authentic as the Miami stuff, and definitely more authentic than I’m used to in Ohio. I would be correct.
I chose to stop at the Cuban Tropical Grill, a little place on the second floor on Estero Blvd in Fort Myers Beach, about a block away from the gulf. We drove by it a couple of times, before seeing the tiny sign – they really need to do something about that to make themselves more visible. Here’s the view we had from inside, looking over the patio and toward the Gulf with a storm rolling in from the east. I really would have liked to make the short trek to the beach, but it was good and pouring and lightning all around by the time we were done eating, so I thought better of it.
The husband and wife running the place just took over in April, so they’ve only seen a moderate amount of business in the off-season, and are looking forward to a much bigger crowd in months to come.
I’ve had many Cuban sandwiches at the Starliner Diner in Hilliard, but I really wanted the real thing – someone told me that when I had an authentic Cuban, I’d know it. I now see what they mean. This Traditional Cuban Sandwich ($6.99) was made on Pane Cubano bread, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, with three kinds of pork (sweet ham, salty ham, and roasted pork), cheese, pickle and mustard, and then pressed. It had this amazing crunch when you bit into it, unlike any sandwich I’ve had before. It came with decent fries, and I also added an additional side of Platanitos Maduro ($2.50), the fried ripe sweet plantains that I’ve come to know and love in the past few years.
My dining companion had the Fried Oyster Platter ($9.95), and chose Maduros and Congri (a spiced mixture of black beans and rice cooked together). I can’t speak to how it tasted, as I don’t like oysters or fried seafood. But she seemed to be quite pleased with her choice, so I’m assuming it tasted good.
Service was attentive, even though it took quite a while for our food to arrive. But considering they were cooking everything from scratch, it was well worth the wait.
I would have loved to indulge in an order of flan for dessert, but they had not made any that day. And the ropa vieja that I love so? Would have been the special the next night. I had fully intended to go back the next night for the ropa vieja, but ended up leaving town early so never got a chance. Sigh.
But I know I’ll be back to eat here on my next trip to South Florida, so all is not lost. In the meantime, run don’t walk if you’re in the area – I want this place to still be around when I visit next spring.
If you’d like to go: Cuban Tropical Grill, 1901 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL, 239.463.2700.