Some of the greatest restaurant finds are the unexpected. Few expect to find authentic Cuban fare in sleepy northern Lake County.
After living in Miami for several years, few Central Florida Cuban restaurants have measured up to South Florida's famous Latin eateries. That's just one reason Copacabana Cafe, a downtown Mount Dora favorite, is such a treat.
The bright, typically bustling restaurant serves up traditional Cuban entrees like Bistec Palomilla (seasoned and tenderized steak with onions), Pechuga a la Plancha (marinated and grilled chicken & onions), Pernil (mojo roasted pork) and Churrasco steak (marinated, tenderized skirt steak). The Arroz con Pollo (yellow saffron rice with chicken) is also an authentic dish to enjoy that is similar to a chicken paella. The side dishes like morros (white rice cooked with black beans), red beans or black beans are as good as any on Calle Ocho. The menu also features six vegetarian entrees.
For appetizers, the Mariquitas con Mojo (crispy, thin plantain chips), the Coctel de Camarones (Cuban shrimp cocktail similar to a spicy shrimp gazpacho), meat Empanadas (meat turnovers) and Masitas de Puerco (marinated, fried pork chunks) are all authentic and perfect for sharing.
The lunch menu features traditional sandwiches like Sandwich Cubano, Media Noche, and Sandwich de Pollo which are pressed on fresh Cuban bread. The cafe's entrees are also available mid day.
Copacabana's savory Chimichurri sauce, different than the original Argentine version of the sauce, is a coveted condiment for garlic lovers. Poured over their meat dishes or used as a salad dressing it's delicious. If you're hard core, dip Tostones or Mariquitas (sliced and fried plantains) into it.
No Cuban meal would be complete without a refreshing mojito. Once again, this restaurant doesn't disappoint. The traditional lime cocktail's fresh mint leaves are muddled to perfection infusing the rum with its refreshing oils. It tastes just as good sitting on Copacabana's patio as it does in the front porches of Havana.
The best way to finish your meal is with an authentic Cafe Cubano. This delicious, espresso sized cup of high octane coffee is guaranteed to perk you up, so don't make plans to nap!
In addition to the flavorful fare, the service is always friendly, just like one might expect from a small neighborhood cafe in Varadero.
Address: 320 Dora Dawdry Way, downtown Mount Dora (but you can also enter on Donnelly Street between 4th & 3rd Avenunes).
Hours: Open for lunch & dinner
Customer Service: Very friendly
Beverages: Full bar and non-alcoholic
Recommendations: Pechuga a la Plancha, Pernil, Arroz con Pollo, Bistec Palomilla, Mojito cocktail, Cafe Cubano