This past Sunday we visited Cuba Libre (9th & H Streets, NW) to checkout the new spot in our neighborhood. The bright and airy restaurant has really high cathedral ceilings that make it feel bigger than it is. Nonetheless Cuba Libre is a decent sized restaurant with a large bar, and it certainly doesn’t feel crowded or uncomfortable. The decor is a little cheesy, with faux balconies set to make it look as if the interior of the restaurant is actually an outdoor cafe in Cuba. But that’s what you get with this kind of a chain, and to be honest, we kind of liked it.
We only spent time at the bar, and to our disappointment that meant we were limited to just the small plates section of their menu. Not even appetizers were available at the bar. But to Cuba Libre’s credit, the bartender warned us this would be the case before we’d even ordered a beer. We hope in the future they’ll come up with a separate bar menu so you don’t have to see all that you’re missing out on by not sitting at a table; but clearly they want the bar to primarily server drinks, not food.
The food we did order was good, and reasonably priced. Nothing we’d rush back for, but good enough to keep us from wanting to move on to another spot. Cuba Libre also boasts a huge rum and mojito menu, as well as a reasonable selection of Spanish & Latin American beers. The bartenders were friendly and overall it was a nice way to let the late afternoon drift by on a lazy Sunday.
Cuba Libre will probably appeal to tourists more than locals (after the novelty of being new wears off), but that won’t stop us from heading there anytime we’re in the mood for some ropa vieja. We know a chain Cuban restaurant won’t appeal to everyone, but the corner of 9th and H looks nicer than it has in years, we’ve now got another new to DC restaurant in our hood, and the increased foot traffic should be welcomed by all.