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El Oriental de Cuba
Photograph: Courtesy El Oriental de CubaEl Oriental de Cuba

The best Cuban food in Boston

The best Cuban food in Boston, including lots of homestyle classics, can be found at these area restaurants

Written by
Time Out Boston Staff
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When you're craving Cuban favorites like ropa vieja, fried pork chops, cod fritters and ham croquettes, the best Cuban restaurants in Boston will not disappoint. Paired with colorful decor and Cuban tunes, stop into one of these spots and you just might feel transported to the country. Sure, the best Italian restaurants, best Indian restaurants, and best Chinese restaurants in Boston are popular for an international experience, but dining at a Cuban restaurant all but guarantees that next-level celebratory vibe. For more tasty flavors of Latin America, check out the best Mexican restaurants and best taco spots in Boston.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston.

Best Cuban food in Boston

  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Jamaica Plain
  • price 2 of 4

For over 20 years, the cheerily appointed Jamaica Plain restaurant has been the go-to spot for pork tamales, perfectly dressed Cubano sandwiches and massive plates of shredded beef piled alongside rice, beans and fried plantains (ripe or green). Even if you just pop in for a tres leches cake and a fruit batido (shake), you’ll leave happy.

  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Jamaica Plain
  • price 2 of 4

As classic Cubano music plays in the background, you’ll tuck into slabs of garlic bread before beginning your culinary journey: ham croquettes, cod fritters and voluminous entrees like shrimp with yellow rice and Cuban-style fried pork chops. Don’t skip over the sandwiches—the owners make their Cuban bread in-house—and be sure to end the meal with the cream-filled churros.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Downtown
  • price 3 of 4

This lavish Cuban restaurant from the team behind Yvonne's has emerged as a must-selfie spot, with flaming rum drinks and drunken monkey wallpaper. But the food lives up to the flare, with an impressive list of snacks (pork empanadas, yuca cheese puffs), small plates (fufu gnocchi, congri rice and beans), cuban pizzas and a few hearty mains (steak fritas, lechon asado). The cocktail list is excellent as well.

  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Roxbury
  • price 2 of 4

Doña Habana's owners, the seasoned restaurateurs Hector and Nivia Pina, know their way around an alluring decor, starting with the 1950s Chevy embedded into the wall. But it’s the classic-modern Cuban cuisine that’s the main draw. The well-seasoned pulled pork sandwich is served with a flourish atop an antique Cuban newspaper; the flaming lobster appears tableside actually aflame. The enormous entrees — ropa vieja is a must — are designed to be split and the mojito sampler is what you’ll want to order to wash all that deliciousness down. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • price 3 of 4

Looking for date night worthy Cuban cuisine? Gustazo is the place for you. The Waltham restaurant elevates simple dishes to fine-dining levels: chicharrones made with pork belly and served with avocado puree, sweet plantains wrapped in bacon and olive oil-poached octopus. But the classic entrees are still well represented and exquisitely turned out, including puerco asado and Arroz con pollo, the Sunday dinner favorite.

  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Seaport District
  • price 3 of 4

At first glance, the chichi restaurant inside the Envoy Hotel may seem like the last place to enjoy Cuban cuisine. But Executive Chef Tatiana Rosana has upended the restaurant’s menu entirely, borrowing from her own heritage (she grew up in a traditional Cuban family in Miami) to delight unsuspecting diners. Cuban-influenced dishes include the salted cod croquettes and the head-on prawns a la plancha. Then there’s her four-star version of the Cuban: smoked ham, braised pork, gruyere and jalapeno mustard on ciabatta bread.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • Jamaica Plain
  • price 1 of 4

Although mostly serving Domnican sandwiches, the venue also offers addictive Cubano sandwiches. Those expecting piles of sliced meat will be pleasantly surprised—the Havana Cubano here features just a single slab of ham, but tons of shredded pernil (slow roasted pork shoulder) that adds extra spice and juiciness. Just remember that good things do come to those who wait—Tostado’s service is undeniably slow. Call in your order ahead of time, or else savor your strawberry batido while waiting for your meal to be prepared.

  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • price 1 of 4

At this no-frills Jamaica Plain spot, Spanish is the preferred language and bachata the preferred piped-in music. Start with the addictive mango smoothie and then work your way through the reliable dinner plates, all served with plantains, beans and rice. Playing it safe means ordering the chicken stew or breaded steak, but what better time to try fried chicken rinds (Chicharron de Pollo) and oxtails in tomato sauce (robo)? If you’re so inclined, linger afterwards for a beer or two with the regulars.

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  • Restaurants
  • Latin American
  • Allston/Brighton
  • price 2 of 4

Casa Caña is a Latin kitchen located in the Studio Allston Hotel where you'll find innovative neuvo Latino cuisine bursting with different flavors and textures. Their use of traditional ingredients will transport you to the streets of some of Latin America's major cities. Street food staples such as chicharrones and grilled street corn are just some of the mouth-watering options you'll find on their menu. Don't forget to chase everything down with one of their many signature rum-based cocktails.

  • Restaurants
  • South End
  • price 1 of 4

Orinoco isn’t a Cuban restaurant per se—instead, it’s a celebrated Venezuelan spot with sly nods to Cuba. Lunch is the time to get your Cuban sandwich fix; here it’s a pepito medianoche, tweaked with a salsa rosa. Other classic dishes include fried plantains both ripe and green, empanadas, mixed rice, and, of course, mojitos aplenty. But as you work your way through the rest of the menu, remind yourself that Cuban food is itself a fluid hybrid of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines, and then try to ID the overlaps.

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  • Restaurants
  • Eclectic
  • Kendall Sq
  • price 2 of 4

The Automatic features eclectic menu includes everything from Sichuan-style beef jerky and buffalo-fried sweet plantains to a “frito pie from hell.” For those missing the late, great Chez Henri, the late night menu features a spot-on Cuban sandwich that originated at the French-Cuban restaurant.

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