THE PLACE: At the gateway to the San Gabriel Valley — the city of Alhambra — you’ll also find a gateway to Cuba. Cuban Bistro off Main Street offers a taste of Cuban culinary delights as well as live salsa music that brings the soul of Cuba alive. Helping guests to delve deeper to find their inner Ricky Ricardo, live salsa music is offered on Friday nights starting at 9 p.m. and jazz on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m.
THE PRICE: There is no cover charge to take in the live music. Drinks start at $6. I decided to try the tequila mojito while my partner tried the house mojito.
The simple syrup in my drink was much sweeter than I am used to; I almost couldn’t stand to finish it. But I had a sip of the house mojito and it wasn’t as sugary. I tried the house sangria as well. It came with a nice heap of fresh-cut apples and oranges on top. This is now my favorite sangria; it was not too sweet or overwhelming but still had plenty of flavors of fruit and wine, which is what a sangria is meant to be. Appetizers ranged from $5.50 to $17.50 for a house sampler.
THE SOUNDS: You couldn’t help but swing your hips to the lively music in the room next to the bar. In the bar area, it is possible to hold a light conversation, but next door, you can barely hear anything above the beat of the drums. But most people in there didn’t want to talk, anyway.
I love dancing and I am not usually shy about it, but the skills of many dancing couples on the floor did make me feel a bit intimidated.
THE FOOD: To my dismay, I was not able to try any of the dinner platters or even appetizers the Friday evening I visited the bistro. My partner and I sat in the bar area and were handed menus by our waitress at about 10:15 p.m. and when we were ready to order, she said the kitchen closed at 10:30 p.m. I looked at my cell phone for the time: it was 10:31 p.m. I think she could have mentioned that when she handed us the menus and took our first drink order.
AGE GROUP: The restaurant is open to all groups and ages, but they card you in the bar area after dinner. The age of the crowd on Friday night varied from mid-20s, all the way up to 60s and 70s.
BEWARE: The bar gets a little busy after 10:30 p.m., and it might be tough to find parking. There is free parking in the structure behind the restaurant with the entrance off Second Street. The bar also closes at midnight — even on the weekends.
THE VIBE: There was a fun, carefree feeling in the air. Groups of friends gathered at the bar and in the dance room together. Couples canoodled in the corner while others took to the floor. If you are not the shy type, don’t be surprised if you are asked to the dance floor by another patron — male or female.
GO: Cuban Bistro is located at 28 W. Main St. in Alhambra. It’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs.; 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. Fri.; noon to midnight Sat.; noon to 10 p.m. Sun. and closed Mon. Happy Hour is 3 to 7 p.m. Tues. through Fri. For more information, call (626) 308-3350 or visit www.cubanbistro.com
MY RATING: 4 With the music, this place gets pretty hot.
RATINGS: 5: Really, really hot; 4: Hot; 3: Fun, loose, low pressure; 2: Cool; 1: Just OK.
(Photos by William Hallstrom / Correspondent)