Lakeland: Elena’s Cuban Cafe

Elena's Cuban Cafe restaurant exterior in Lakeland, FloridaMy wife and I had the good fortune to do a little traveling this summer and are getting settled back in to our daily routine. However, our Fridays are flexible this summer so we thought we would head out to one of our “list” restaurants (yes, I keep a list of restaurants to visit) that is closed on weekends. This week, we went to Elena’s Cuban Cafe in Lakeland.

Elena's Cuban Cafe restaurant interior in Lakeland, FloridaElena’s has a no frills decor and was wonderfully quiet while we were there. They were doing a steady business of people dining in and takeout orders. There is also a drive-through window. The service was very pleasant. Food is ordered at the front counter, and when the order is ready it’s brought out to the tables.

Milkshakes at Elena's Cuban Cafe in Lakeland, FloridaOne of the first things I noticed is that they serve milkshakes. I ordered a mango milkshake and my wife ordered a papaya shake (these are also offered as water-based juices). Both shakes were good – they weren’t the thick and hearty shakes we’ve had at a few other locations, but still very tasty.

Breaded pork loin with rice, beans, and plantains at Elena's Cuban Cafe in Lakeland, FloridaThe menu offers a variety of beef, chicken, and seafood entrees, along with sandwiches and some soups and salads. Our food was ready very fast but everything tasted fresh. For lunch, my wife ordered a breaded pork loin, which came with rice, black beans, and plantains. The pork loin was excellent, thin and tender and breaded just right. She did feel that the black beans were a little too soupy, and I agree.

Breaded fish fillet, rice, black beans, and plantains, at Elena's Cuban Cafe in Lakeland, FloridaI ordered a breaded fish fillet, which also came with rice, black beans, and plantains. Everything had good flavor without being too spicy. I wasn’t wild about the onions – I don’t care for onions in general, and I know I’m in the minority on this, so it will be fine for most people (for example, my wife liked the onions on her entree). The black beans also had quite a lot of onions mixed in, so I donated those to my wife. Other than the onions, everything was just right. The fish was tender. We both noted that the rice was especially good. The plantains were slightly crispy outside and soft inside.

We had plenty of food with some leftovers to bring home. With tip, our total was a little over $33, which seemed like a good price for the amount and quality of food we received. So if you’re looking for tasty Cuban food for lunch or dinner, either dining in or takeout, give Elena’s a try. They are in Lakeland, in the Ruthven Center II (?) strip mall, on East Edgewood Drive near Bartow Road. Enjoy!

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