Updated
Feb 10th, 2018
First Posted
Feb 7th, 2018

Padrino's Cuban Cuisine

1135 N Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale FL, 33304
(954) 210-8989
Overall Rating
2.8
Food
Service
Ambiance
Value
Last Review
02/06/2018

Details

Hours: 11:30-10pm
Parking: Private Lot
CC: Yes
Alcohol: Full Bar
HasWifi: Yes
Wifi password: None
Outdoor: No

Pros

Nicer than Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine
Professional Service
Lunch Buffet

Cons

Bland Food
No Labels on Buffet
No Privacy in Dining Room

Critic's Review

You'd never know it from any of their information available, but Padrino's in Fort Lauderdale now has a lunch buffet. I felt like some Cuban so I called them first to confirm; there's no mention of it on their web site or facebook page.

Outdoor dining is up and running, but I didn't want to deal with smoke or have to keep going inside to get to the buffet. Outdoor dining on US1 has limited value regardless.

There were only 2 tables inside at 1:45. Someone mentioned that "Latin" lunch is later, but then why do they end the buffet at 2:30? I got here a bit earlier than I usually do for lunch so I didn't get the leftovers on the buffet.

They didn't try to seat me at a mini-table today, I got a nice table in the corner.

I told the hostess I was doing the buffet and ordered an iced tea and I was off. Still no lemon. Padrino's rrefuses to assimilate into America. How can you run a full bar without lemon? You can't get a lemon with your $15 cocktail? It's not like their food is authentic or anything. They really can't accommodate their customer base?

The buffet was pretty well stocked and the food looked relatively fresh.

The big criticism here is that there are no labels. I happen to know what most Cuban dishes look like, but I still didn't know what was in the closed containers. One of them had some sort of soup and the other had black beans.

I'm low carb'ing, so I stayed away from the rice.

Let's take a closer look:

Salad with Italian dressing and properly steamed brocolli and cauliflower. The ground beef in the upper right is "Picadillo"; I never order it because it usually contains green olives or raisins, and I don't want either of those in my beef dishes. This version had green olives. Not very tasty; kind of bland. The Ropa Vieja was equally bland; it should be garlicky good, but this was under-seasoned. The chicken was equally uninspiring; a bit dry. I dropped a couple of tablespoons of black beans on the Ropa to add some fiber. This plate served to provide protein and vegetables, but no real satisfaction.

Music is purely Spanish lyric, with El Bodeguero, Cachita and Una Aventura playing.

I was almost done with the plate when a runner brought out some bread. Why did it take so long? Of course I'm not eating bread today, so it didn't really matter.

Back to the buffet for a 2nd plate of stuff.

When I got back to the table, the plates were gone, along with my bowl of black beans, that I wasn't done with. So I had to go back to the buffet to get another bowl of beans.

I took some Moros rice (mixed with black beans) and it was dried out and not fun to eat. I trade to save it with some additional black beans, but it was no use. I got more salad with the "other" unmarked dressing, which wasn't as good as the clear dressing. Get the Italian if you're getting a salad.

Without labels, I thought I was taking breaded chicken, but it turned out to be fish. Totally unseasoned, I had to ask for some salt; there are no condiments on the tables. The fist was decent but why not season the breading or salt the fish?

The pork chunks were properly cooked, but again, completely unseasoned. No taste at all.

As I was just finishing up, a manager was making the rounds (for the second time) asking everyone how everything was, and she spotted my empty tea and asked if I wanted a refill. I told her I was ready for my check, which she acknowledged but didn't convey to my server. When my server came by a few minutes later, he was unaware I wanted my check.

$15. for the buffet with a soft drink. No bargain compared to normal Cuban lunch specials; it wouldn't be unreasonable if they had better tasting food.

Conclusion

The buffet features good looking but under seasoned food that would fail to convince me that Cuban food was something good if I was trying it for the first time. If you're looking to load up on carbs or protein and you're hungry, you can eat all you want here. But the food lacks the spice that makes Cuban food interesting.

Review 7/11/17

While I like to wait a week or so after a place opens, there so little else going on around here I figured I'd check it out. One advantage of going to a place when they first open is that the hostess opens the door for you as you enter. That usually ends after a couple of weeks.

They're all excited about the fact that this place has a full bar; their only location that does. But nobody really wants to eat at a bar.

I thought that they might have a buffet, so I got here at 1:45 rather than my usual 2:30. Of course there is no buffet here (yet), and the dining room was largely empty except for a table in the back that appeared to be hosted by one of the managers as she kept getting up to fix things.

The hostess tried to seat me in a little table in the corner; "could I have something less uncomfortable please?".

Unfortunately the place doesn't have too many comfortable tables. High tops in between low tables, big tables for 5 and 6 in the back. I opted for a larger table, which was actually 2 small tables pushed together.

This place used to be a Melting Pot with all private booths; they've torn them all out and now there is no privacy anywhere. Open booths, bench seating along the wall. It looks nice but I hate eating in a big open room.

It reminds me a bit of El Tamarindo. The other side of the room has a big old-style chandelier and bars on fake window which don't quite elicit the feel of dining in Cuba.

The hostess made a point of touting their "full bar" and including a drink list with the menu; do most people drink at lunch? When my server came by I ordered tea with lemon, fuguring that with a full bar they must have lemon.

The tea arrived with a lime. "You don't have lemon", I quipped. "Yes", and he pointed to the lime. "That's a lime", I pointed out. "No, we only have lime". "You have a full bar and you don't have lemon? OK". I wonder if they have olives or cranberry juice?

I ordered the Ropa Vieja because that's what I always order in a Cuban restaurant. I can't get into the pork chunks and a Cuban Sandwich isn't eat-in food.

A few minutes went by and some bread was dropped off. I guess they don't have a press as this location, because the bread was uncharacteristically thick for cuban bread.

Carlos Vive's "La Gota Fria", followed by the Gipsy Kings and more Carlos Vive.

12 Minutes later the food was delivered.

A lunch size portion, but plenty of food for the $10 price tag. I don't eat the plantains so it looks like more than it is. The presentation was a bit bland; compare this to what I got a few years ago at the Plantation Location. They don't bother with the red pepper or the peas anymore apparently. The beans were also more of a soup; decent tasting but it just seemed like a bad restaurant trick to give you less beans and more liquid.

One advantage when they give you the ropa in a side bowl is that you get some of the liquid; this was a bit dry and I couldn't splash some sauce on the rice.

Nothing great or terrible about any of the food (although I didn't care for the bread). Not a great version of Ropa.

My server was very good, however; swooping in with a refill at the right time and picked the sugar wrappers off the table as he walked by.

One thing that was interesting is that quite a few people came in after 2:30, including a couple of families with small children. Kind of the opposite of most places that die off after 2pm until the 7pm rush.

Conclusion

The difference between places like this and the Mexican/Cuban places like Jalisco and La Bamba is that the Mexican/Cuban places also have Mexican food. This place is just like Las Vegas Cuisine with a nicer restaurant; the same menu with the same pedestrian food that does no more than satisfy your hunger.

A better choice than Mario's Catalina, for what that's worth.

Comment Policy Add Comment
Jay
Reply
The reason why Latin American restaurants get busy after 2 pm is because most Latinos have their lunch between 2 and 5 pm and lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Breakfast is light and dinner is just a snack. Learned this from being married or dating a Peruvian for the last 8 years.
John
Reply
That's ridiculous. My family has Spanish and Cuban heritage and the biggest meal in our Latino community isn't lunch, (and we don't take Siestas) True we are late for everything, but we don't eat lunch at 3, 4, or 5 pm! Our biggest meal is Dinner, and it is served late. You can't judge "most Latinos" by being married or dating a Peruvian for 8 years amigo!
Administrator
Reply
Who wants to each cheap fish and corn nuts for dinner anyway?
Administrator
Reply
That's a good story but *most* people have jobs and get lunch hour so they don't get to eat when they feel like it. El Tamarindo empties out after 2p, and I've never experienced a busy Latin restaurant at 3p in many visits. Why do they stop the specials at 3 if 2-5 is the traditional lunch hour?
Lemonhead
Reply
it's pretty common that Cuban joints only have limes, no lemons. And they confuse the two because they have the same name in Spanish (Limon)
Administrator
Reply
Maybe that's why there's never any non-Cuban people at their bars? Not very smart business people, those Cubans. Imagine an American opening a Bar in a Cuban neighborhood and not having any limes.

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