This queen is much less royal than the name might inspire, but that is definitely not a bad thing. Not much from the outside, stepping inside is somehow into a warmer climate with tropical colors and wicker furniture. Paintings of La Habana decorate the entire space and inspire memories of travels not so long ago.
The clientele is also blue color, with locals taking quick lunches and the West New York Police Department taking slightly longer lunches. A few people linger over coffee and the paper. In front, the kitchen prepares mostly sandwiches, hot pressing them when ordered.
It does not take long for an order to arrive, giving you scant time to try and translate all the fun idioms covering the walls. Regardless, when the cubano ($4.99, below) arrives, your attention switches immediately to it anyways. The freshly pressed Cuban bread is perfectly toasty and soft within, with layers of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. The pickles always play a more oversize roll than usual in a cubano, their deliciousness essential to the sandwich.
Little known is the fact that the sandwich is said to have been originated in Florida, a direct descendent of the ham and cheese sandwich that remains popular in the United States to this day. When travel and work between Florida and Cuba was much more fluid over a century ago, Cuban workers were said to be the first to eat the sandwich while taking lunch from the cigar factories.
You can get most of the sandwiches here in three sizes, 6 inches, 8 inches, and 11 inches. All three are great value depending on your appetite.
Also of interest are the empanadas. The empanada de guayaba y queso ($2.50, below) is a Cuban classic, and does not disappoint here.
Ours seemed fresh out of the oven, but the hunks of cheese do not fully melt. Plenty of hot guava is in there, so be careful as you take bites and it starts squirting forwards and back.
Unfortunately there is no alcohol here, especially Cuban alcohol like Havana Club rum, shown painted below on the wall. That would just have to wait until we got home and got into our illegal bounty from a March trip.
Dancing did not seem very likely here either, unfortunately, but otherwise the friendly ladies run a lovely place that does have transportative qualities even on cold December days. I miss you, Cuba.