Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cuban Cuisine in the Smoky Mountains?!

It was a bit cloudy, but it wasn’t raining and it was just another ‘tough’ winter day here in East Tennessee (Low temperature 30 degrees/High temperature 52 degrees – Not too bad for mid-January!)

Laurie and I decided to go for a drive over to scenic Cade’s Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park…about an hour drive from our house.

We saw well over a hundred deer and a couple of flocks of turkeys during our drive through the cove…  There was minimal traffic for a change and it was an enjoyable visit to this very pretty valley.

The deer in Cade’s Cove are really accustomed to people and autos… This buck ignored whistles, calls and people just a few yards away.  He just wouldn’t look up to have his photo taken!

Another mid-winter photo of Cade’s Cove…peaceful and serene… In season, the loop road can take a couple of hours to navigate.  A deer grazing by the side of the road is all the reason that folks need to stop their vehicle in its tracks to take pictures while blocking traffic.

When we drove through Townsend Tennessee on the way to the park, we were surprised to see a new restaurant…one that doesn’t serve southern food or just basic fuel for the body.

A Cuban Restaurant in Townsend near the Smokies?!  We couldn’t resist!  On our return drive back toward our home, we stopped at the Lil’ Cuban Café for an early dinner.

Well, the café didn’t look Cuban once you went inside… Tree trunk seating at rustic wooden tables.  Stools made from tree trunks and tractor seats.  Knotty pine paneling… Not to worry, its all about the cusine!

I ordered the Cuban…Caribbean spiced pork, Swiss cheese, ham, dill pickle chips, mustard and butter pressed in Cuban bread.  This is a big sandwich for only $6.95!  I liked the fact that the sandwich rested on a layer of shoe string potatoes.  I hadn’t had any of those for years… The sandwich was very large and loaded with meat and cheese.  It was good but it was a little bland for my taste.  I think that I expected a bit more ‘pop’ in flavor.

These are the Yucca Fries that I ordered with my Cuban sandwich… I’d never had these before.  They were worth trying but they are nothing like French Fries… The Garlic & Olive Oil dipping sauce was a big winner!  I would use this sauce on other food items for sure…

Laurie is far more experimental and adventurous when it comes to ordering food that we’re not used to seeing (I have way too many food hang-ups or dislikes to be a real food critic) She ordered this magnificent Pan Con Picadillo…ground sirloin with a complement of Spanish chorizo, diced ham and green olives sautéed in a sofrito sauce, then served over warmed Cuban bread siting on shoe string potatoes ($6.95) This sandwich was loaded with flavor.  It was huge too!  Laurie loved it as did I…once I picked out the larger pieces of olive (It’s a texture thing with me…)

Other sandwiches on the menu include: the Pan Con Lechon…Cuban style oven-roasted pork tenderloin with house mojo sauce and sautéed onions served in warmed Cuban bread; the Pan Con Croqueta…4 ham croquettes layered with Swiss cheese, dill pickle chips and shoe string potatoes, pressed on a sweet hamburger bun; the Frita…Cuban style burger made with a delicious blend of ham and Spanish sausage layered with Swiss cheese and shoe string potatoes, then pressed on a sweet burger bun, and; the Jamon y Queso…ham and Swiss cheese pressed on buttered Cuban bread.  All of the sandwiches are $6.95!

Laurie loved this pineapple drink…Jupina.  Among other beverages offered, the Lil’ Cuban Café also serves Ironbeer (a Cuban beverage tasting like a fruitier Dr. Pepper), Materva (made from yerba mate, a popular South American tea), and Cuban coffee.

Beyond the sandwiches, there are 3 platters…all costing $10.95.  These platters or entrees include: Picadillo…basically the filling for Laurie’s sandwich; Lechon Asada…the filling for the Pan Con Lechon, and; a platter of the day.  These include a chicken dish, a beef stew, shredded beef with green and red peppers and deep fried marinated pork pieces.  All platters come with 3 sides. 
There are also different soups offered each day as well as a daily Empanada special.  Empanada’s are $3.95.  Three pastelitos (pastries) are offered, ($3.00 each) as well as two desserts…Lil’ Cuban Café Flan, ($3.95), and Casco De Guayaba…guava shells served with cream cheese and natural guava syrup ($2.95)
We will definitely return to Lil’ Cuban Café!  We will bring others as well… It’s a friendly place, very casual and comfortable serving good Cuban cuisine at a very reasonable price.  It’s also a big change of pace from the normal offerings available in East Tennessee…
Lil’ Cuban Café is located at 7249 East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Townsend Tennessee.  Phone: 865-448-3067.  They do not have a website but they are on Facebook at
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. We'll have to give this a try and see how it compares to our go-to place, The Aroma Cafe.

  2. LOL! You just never know what you'll come across on a drive! I love Cuban sandwiches and yours looks great and so do the fries! Can't wait to hear what you got the next time!

  3. They have moved to Trillium Cove - the group of shops on the left past the IGA/Dollar General area.