Carmen’s Cuban Café
108 D Factory Shops Road
Lunch: $7 to $9
Dinner: $10 to $25
I have wanted to check out Carmen’s for a very long time, because it was the only Cuban option (at least, the only one I know about) in the Triangle for years. In the past three, both the Old Havana Sandwich Shop and Cuban Revolution have come to the area as well, and they both have their plusses and minuses, so I wanted a third option to rank. Or rather, I just hadn’t made it to Carmen’s yet and finally got around to it.
It’s located in a strip mall right off of I-40 and across the way from the nearly abandoned Morrisville Outlet Mall — though I hear there are plans to make that into a Chinatown complex? The location is assuredly nondescript, but inside, Carmen’s has a rich gold palette.
On weekend nights, it transforms into a Latin American and world music club. But I was there during lunch, so no salsa lessons for me. Lunch features a selection of sandwiches including a traditional Cuban and more American options like hamburgers jazzed up with mixed mustard and mayo and ham on top. There is a changing selection of nine entrées on a weekly schedule, and all the options come with choices of rice, beans, yucca (boiled or fried), and plantains (maduras or tostones). The plates on this day included tilapia frita, masitas de puerco, bistec empanizado, and arroz con pollo. The dinner menu expands on the entrée selections, including intriguing seafood selections like mariscos a la Carmen’s: lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops and fish in a Caribbean-infused sauce. Cuban coffee is available in addition to malta, materva, ironbeer, jupina, jumex juice, and typical US sodas. I ordered a cubano con leche, and it had way more milk than I’m used to for Cuban coffee.
It tasted okay, but Old Havana Sandwich Shop definitely has Carmen’s beat in coffee.by