My wife and I had lunch at West Caribbean Cuban Restaurant in Lakeland recently. It was a gloomy day with rain approaching and we were happy to be having lunch in a restaurant with warm, welcoming decor. It was wonderfully quiet, we had the restaurant to ourselves for the first part of our lunch. There was some Latin music playing but at a tasteful volume and we enjoyed it.
The first thing I noticed when I reviewed their menu: they have milkshakes! What a nice surprise. They have a variety of flavors, mostly some type of fruit. My wife ordered a mango shake and I ordered tamarind. The shakes can be made with either milk or water as a base – our waiter recommended milk for mango and water for tamarind (making it technically more of a slushie than a milkshake, but we’re not picky).
The milkshakes were both delicious. The mango shake was nice and sweet. Tamarind is harder to describe, if you’ve had it you understand. Some people describe it as a sweet and sour combination. It’s a little tart to me but I like it.
We also received some complimentary Cuban bread. It was pre-buttered and came with some dipping sauce. The sauce was not something either of us had tasted before but seemed to be a kind of vinaigrette (a small amount is pictured in the photo above). We liked it, the flavor was a nice complement to the bread.
The menu has a variety of sandwiches as well as beef, seafood, pork, and chicken dishes. My wife ordered picadillo a la Cubana, sauteed ground beef cooked in a tomato sauce with olives and potatoes. The lunch came with two sides and she ordered sweet plantains and black beans and rice. It was my wife’s first time eating picadillo and she described it as “absolutely delicious.” The olives were a nice complement to the beef. The rice, beans, and plantains were all perfect cooked.
I ordered arroz con pollo, yellow rice with chicken. My lunch came with one side, I ordered sweet plantains. A simple-sounding dish that had a lot of flavor. The flavor of the chicken reminded me of chicken I had in Belize, a unique set of mild spices that I’ve never found anyplace else. All the food was outstanding, lots of flavor without being too spicy. The chicken is hard to spot in the photo above, but there was a generous amount of chicken mixed in with the rice.
This hasn’t really conveyed how much we liked the food. Really outstanding – neither of us had been to West Caribbean before, so we were surprised and quite happy. We’re hardly experts, but everything seemed authentic to us. Friendly service. So we look forward to returning. With tip, our total came to a little over $42, a little more than a typical Polk Eats lunch, but we had leftovers to enjoy the next day. A fun experience! West Caribbean Cuban Restaurant is on South Combee Road in Lakeland, between Bartow Road and Crystal Lake Drive. Enjoy!