Put it in your mouth

Cuba, Cuba, Cuba. I tell you what, Canita on W. Burnside has got some real tasty Cuban food and you should eat some of it!

I visited Canita last Thursday not knowing what to expect. I have eaten at their east-side sister restaurant, Pambiche, but Canita was a whole new experience for me. Celebrating my friend’s birthday, a few friends and I arrived at this brightly colored, dimly lit Cuban oasis in search of some nourishment and drink. Much to our surprise and pleasure, we happened to be smack dab in the middle of a happy hour which runs from 2 p.m. to 6 Thu.-Sat., and 10 p.m. to close Tue.-Thu.

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Immediately we ordered a round of mohitos. I recommend you do the same because these drinks were fantastic, albeit really sweet. That was OK for me, because lately I have been craving lots of sweet things; I just can’t get enough sweets. It’s weird, I hope I’m not dying or something. Anyway, that made the mohito all the better. This drink comprised of rum, sugar, fresh mint and lime was absolutely delicious and, to top it off, they even serve it with a slice of real sugar cane.

After drinks we set in to explore the food menu, which during happy hour consists of sixteen options for a mere $2.50. Options range from empanadas (savory or sweet) with your choice of beef, corn and chicken, fish, spinach, cheese and potato or sweet guava and cheese or mango to something simple like congri, Cuban red beans and rice.

Being a group, we sampled a number of different dishes. I was looking forward to the chicken empanada but unfortunately they were out of chicken that night so I settled instead for the beef. It was really good. The sweet spices accompanied by the crispy empanada made a great combination. Also, the corn and tomatoes this dish is served with gave the overall presentation and flavor a nice balance.

I also tried the yuca con mojo, fried cassava root with Creole garlic sauce. This sweet root accompanied with beets was delicious. I also recommend the maduros, consisting of fried ripe plantains. They were fantastic in their cooked-little-banana-like way.

Myself being weary of beets, I reluctantly sampled my friend’s ensalada de remolach, a Cuban beet salad. Fortunately, it was actually pretty good.

Through with dinner, we returned again to the drink menu where we found a number of drinks on happy hour special. Unfortunately, the mohito was curiously absent from this collection. Nonetheless, it was time to branch out.

As soon as we arrived, my friend Renee kept talking about some kind of Cuban alcohol similar to tequila made from cactus. Over and over she tried to remember its proper title with no success. Until, that is, she looked at the special menu and, sure enough, there it was. She was right, it was very hard to pronounce and even more difficult (I’m sure) to remember. It’s called aguardiente, and it is a lot like tequila. We ordered two of the canchancharas featuring this unique ingredient and I was disappointed. It was so sour, kind of like a bad margarita. Oh well, maybe next time I’ll try one of the other three cocktails that feature this fare. My friend Holly ordered the sangria and that was good, though.

Overall, Canita is a great place to eat some Cuban food, and have a drink. Oh, and I hear they have great bands and dancing on Friday and Saturday night. I can’t wait till the summertime, I bet this would be a great place to beat the heat!