Kristy Alpert’s latest report on where you can find great food for less than eight dollars.
For this week’s lunch “under” eight dollars, I headed to Carrollton for a Cuban food at International Bakery: Cuban Dulceria. I tried, truly I did, to stick to the $8 limit. However on this day I was on a quest to enlighten my mom on the deliciousness of Cuban cuisine. For her, I spared no expense—you can only have your first bite of a Cuban sandwich once. What we ended up having could be considered complete Cuban enlightenment.
Nestled between Target and Petco, and behind a Chili’s, once you are inside the door of this hole-in-the-wall bakery the strip-mall surroundings disappear and you are transported to tiny shop in Havana. The walls are covered with bright paintings and black-and-white family pictures. The shelves are full of aged wooden crates, nostalgic cigar boxes, and Cuban groceries. They only have a handful of tables, most customers grab their baked goods to-go, but we choose to sit and enjoy the whole experience.
It’s hard to believe this little bakery has been up and running since 1979. Owners Rita and Sara Vazquez, once formidable fashion designers for Havana 1515, their line of high-end home accessories influenced by their Cuban roots. They quit the fashion biz to run the shop when their father retired.
One of sisters greeted us right away and recommended we try the homemade Cuban juice ($1.50 each) she just finished mixing together. As we waited for our sandwiches, I sipped my guahabana juice (soursop) and my mom sipped on her maracuya (passion fruit) juice while the sister went to make our lunch.
The sandwiches came out deli-style, in a black basket with butcher paper ala high school lunches, but the sandwiches were far from anything you’d ever find in a cafeteria. I ordered the Media Noche ($5.50), warm freshly pressed sandwich filled with roasted, shredded pork which had been marinated in a homemade mojo sauce and cooked all night. The pork was covered with ham, melted cheese, and pickles placed between two slices of homemade, sweet Cuban bread. My mom went with the traditional El Cubano ($5.50) with the same ingredients served on slightly less sweet Cuban bread. We both fully intended to only eat half of the sandwich and take the rest to eat later, but quickly found ourselves devouring every last bite and chatting with the sisters.
Sensing we were suckers for their stuff, they told us we couldn’t leave without trying their coffee and baked goods. Although I technically shouldn’t include this part in the review since I had now spent more than eight bucks on my meal, it was too good to leave behind. The Café Cubano ($1.85) was excellent as was my mom’s Cortadito ($2.25) coffee. Both came in perfectly small portion sizes, just enough to compliment the heavenly macaroon ($1.00) we split.
Overall: I’ve heard about this place from a lot of different people but sitting at the tables made us feel like regulars every time someone walked through the door and checked out our table full of food. My mom was quick to make recommendations with the authority of a seasoned Cuban food authority. Always behind the counter, Rita and add a vibrant and passionate vibe to your lunch. Yes, we fudged our budget by spending a little more than eight dollars each but we left feeling like we had just been out of the country for less than it would cost to rent a taxi to the airport. Pretty great budget travel if you ask me!
Well Dishers? Where should I go next for my $8 lunch?