Kuba Kuba is a restaurant that left an impression on me when I lived in Richmond, despite having eaten there only a few times. It was high on my list of places to visit during our recent stay.
The name gives away a secret: The food is Cuban. I’m not especially partial to Cuban cuisine, so I don’t particularly care whether Kuba Kuba is authentic or not. Each time I’ve eaten there, the food has been great and the bill has been more than reasonable. That’s all I ask for, man.
The location of Kuba Kuba in Richmond’s Fan District is great — if you live close enough to walk, as many do. To the rest of us: Get ready to fight for a parking space on the street. If you’re driving north on Lombardy Street, you might miss the place, like I did, even if you know what you’re looking for, like I thought I did. Then you have to make a u-turn at Monument Avenue and try again.
Between the parking situation and the inevitable waiting list for a table in this tiny place, being seated felt like an accomplishment in itself. The kitchen is open, almost diner style. It makes the place as noisy as it is crowded. The service is chaotic. The food is worth it.
I started with a black bean soup with diced onions and sour cream. Kathryn started with a salad. She immediately envied me when the food arrived. I shared some of my soup with her. That’s just how I roll.
We both had Cuban sandwiches as our main dish. Think of a panini with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and spicy mustard. Fried plantains were served on the side. Kathryn had never had plantains before, so that was a cool first for her.
Dessert should have been tres leches cake, but they ran out. We shared the last slice of a chocolate cake they make with a similar recipe. At only a buck, I also had to finish with a Cuban coffee.
To sum it up: Great food, reasonable prices, gritty urban atmosphere, minimal service. Not even a little bit romantic, but Kathryn and I aren’t newlyweds anymore.
Kuba Kuba is located at 1601 Park Avenue, on the corner of North Lombardy Street, in the Fan district of Richmond, Virginia.