Cuban Revolution

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Perhaps the most revolutionary thing about Cuban Revolution is its location. The neighborhood just north of Johns Hopkins Hospital, known as Middle East, hasn’t seen a new sit-down restaurant open seemingly since the Bay of Pigs. Hopkins staffers, neighborhood denizens and visitors to the hospital hungry for somewhere—anywhere!—to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner have flocked to the restaurant since its February opening.  As Hopkins rebuilds the area, other restaurants are slated to arrive, including a Teavolve next door.

This Cuban Revolution joins two others in Providence, R.I., and another in Durham, N.C. Owners Ed and Mary Morabito started the chain, they say, mainly because they missed the Cuban food they had known while living in Tampa Bay.

The restaurant plays up the “revolutionary” theme big time, with colorful paintings of provocateurs, from Malcolm X to Angela Davis and Che Guevara, natch. The menu features items with cutesy names, like End the Embargo kabobs, Bay of Pigs empanadas and G’Ma Khrushchev’s Shrimp Gumbo. It’s not all in good fun for every diner, however: The Morabitos say they’ve received bomb threats from unhappy Cuban Americans who believe the restaurant glorifies Fidel Castro.  “Mostly Cubans from Miami,” says Mary. 

As they do at their other restaurants, the Morabitos hope to host live music here—and maybe salsa dancing. But for now, it’s mainly a lunch crowd, relieved that there’s a new option in the neighborhood.

1. Atmosphere: The vibe is clean and corporate, with exposed piping, floor-to-ceiling windows and a couple of big-screen TVs over the bar. Another bank of TVs above the open kitchen broadcasts newsreels from the 1950s and ’60s. 

2. Drink: Specials are offered daily, including $5 mojitos on Saturdays. You also can order sangria by the liter, Cuban espressos, handmade tropical sodas and even egg creams.

3. Eat: You could make a meal among the 24 appetizer-sized plates. Most are fried, however. Fans of non-greasy food might want to pay attention to the Havana deluxe crabcakes, spiked with corn, peppadews and served with mango aioli—one of the more unusual crab cake offerings in town.

Entrées range from traditional ropa vieja to sea scallops served with sofrito. The Cuban sandwich is offered Italian-style with a slice of salami in addition to the traditional ham, pickles and mustard on Cuban toast.  “The salami was from the Italian immigrants who lived and worked next to the Cubans in Tampa,” notes Mary Morabito.

4. The chef: Morabito has overseen both the front-of-house and kitchen since its opening and says there are no plans to hire a chef.

5. Finishing touches: Flan is the traditional Cuban treat, but the restaurant also offers tropical milkshakes in flavors like guava, passion fruit and mango.

Bottom line: Che Guevara, meet Johns Hopkins. 443-708-5189, http://www.thecubanrevolution.com —JOE SUGARMAN

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