A mashed something pale yellow stared back at me. It was mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican dish made from mashed green plantains and garlic. My palate had met its match.
Twenty-eighth street hosts Mojito Café where a handful of tables and a small bar makes for a saucy, cozy evening out for locals to get their mojito fix—as well as the perfect atmosphere for our double date to ensue. We arrived 15 minutes before a line began to trickle out the door for the remainder of our meal. Though bustling at all times, the staff was personable and genuinely interested in our experience with their Latin cuisine.
A couple of us kickstarted the evening with their specialty, traditional mojitos. They were the only thing that seemed to quench our thirsts on this nearly 100-degree day. Our mojitos accompanied conch fritters, one of the weekly specials. They were like the seafood cousins of hush puppies. The chewy conch was dunked in a densely herbed breading, deep fried and served with some mysterious garlicky dressing.
This pleasingly beige-tinged dressing seemed to be either next to or smeared across each item we ordered—from the conch appetizer to each of our entrées. "So what's in this sauce? It tastes like tahini," I stated with confidence but ended in a questionable tone.
"It's garlic, roasted garlic and olive oil," the waiter replied, unfazed by my novice guess. My taste buds went aflutter for this garlic upon garlic creation.
While the rest of the table settled on pork dishes, I ordered the mahi tacos. The mahi, tender and delicate, flaked wonderfully as it nestled between a tortilla and fresh salsa, while the cabbage added the necessary crunch. The men ordered Cuban sandwiches, but my gal pal’s pulled pork dish was notably sensational. Unabashed, it was delivered as a pile of shredded pork with the garlic sauce parading all over the mound. There are really only two words that can encompass my borrowed bite: tender bliss.
Let’s be honest. By the end of our meals, the four of us were stuffed, but we couldn't resist dessert. My husband and I (okay, I) took the reins and ordered the coconut vanilla tres leches, which is a sponge cake saturated in three kinds of milk. It was light, pudding-like, like a little slice of cloud, and the drizzled chocolate sauce wasn’t so bad either.
Enamored at our tres leches, the other couple decided to order the deep fried, banana-caramel cheesecake, and I’m so glad they did. Do you remember those toaster strudels you might have eaten as a kid so that your parents could trick you into eating breakfast? Really, no bribery was needed because any kid would eat a frosting-smothered pastry. Well, imagine a toaster strudel for adults. The cheesecake and banana filling was wrapped in a thin pastry layer, deep-fried, then strewn across a puddle of rich caramel.
When you visit Mojito Cafe, prepare to be garlicked out and more stuffed than after a Thanksgiving meal. Although the restaurant itself is subtle in size, their Latin cuisine packs full flavor.