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For Casual Cuban Cuisine in the City: “Sophie’s”

I am a very picky eater. I know that I am usually sharing food photos but if you notice they are mostly in the same category of the food pyramid. My entire basic food intake usually comes in the form of caffeine or carbohydrates. Occasionally there will be a vegetable, dessert, or something new I am trying. This being summer time I am also eating a lot of the fruits that are in season, winter fruit choices in New York City can be so boring.

In fact up until I graduated college I wasn’t into trying anything new. Or maybe it just hadn’t occurred to me. I feel like the current “foodie” vibes are apart of our social culture nowadays in ways that it hadn’t ever been before. Its hard to remember a time before Instagram or the Food Network when food was just what you ate not part of defining who you are.

For me the biggest changes happened once I started graduate school. The part time job I had then was awful but it led to me meeting one of the best friends. I know that’s why I was destined to work there. It was this friend who taught me how to eat sushi one day and I haven’t looked back since.

I say she taught me how to eat it because I had no clue where to begin. It was our lunch hour and we went to some little place in midtown and I tried California rolls, shrimp tempura, and I am sure a few other beginner rolls. I also had my first salad with ginger dressing. All of these years later (at least ten years or more) I still remember tasting my first bite of wasabi.

The food I was eager to try next was Indian. It was almost ten years ago when I started my first job out of grad school and I went out with coworkers. That meal was life changing. Sharing all of those dishes of vegetables and meats was unlike anything I had ever tasted. Each had such exotic flavors, none too spicy, but special. Of course a hot basket of naan will always be welcome and who can live without chicken tikka masala in their lives?

One summer home from college I met up with a friend who suggested we go for Thai food. I was interested but left unsatisfied. I know now that it was the restaurant. In recent years I have had much better Thai food and would love for it to be close enough to be a weekly staple of my meals. I love a good spring roll, and I am always up for a good plate of vegetable pad Thai. It is a simple meal with tasty ingredients that I find irresistible.

As I move towards expanding my tastes and blog research I have to add a local Turkish restaurant to this mix. Taci’s Beyti ( is a place friends brought me and I have been craving to go back. I will have to print my blog and take it with me so I know exactly what to get. Those spinach pies were amazing!

It is worth mentioning that all of the friends I am talking about here are all different and do not even know each other. As I have grown up I like that I have friends from all different parts of my life who are on my journey with me. As you can read they all contribute in their own ways to making me who I am today and right now I am only talking about their influence with foods.

Lastly I need to talk about my relationship with Mexican food. The first few times I went to Rosa Mexicano I was pleasantly surprised. It was my first experiences with “real” Mexican food. I think I was more use to American Mexican food like you find in Applebees and the like (don’t get me wrong I am still a Chili’s two for twenty dollars girl). It took more than a minute to get use to the mole sauce but by the end of my first plate I was all in. Their margaritas can be deadly so make sure you are enjoying them responsibly. I recommend the Pomegranate ones.  Even better is the guacamole they make right at your table. It is the best version you will ever have in your life. There are over ten locations in cities around the U.S. and have even expanded overseas.

This brings me to one of my favorite types of carbohydrates: rice and beans. I will eat them wherever I can get them. I believe it makes any meal better and any snack more desirable. If I can get refried beans I am in absolute heaven. As you will see here ( the Taci couple, as I will call them, also brought me to one of their favorite Latin restaurants in Brooklyn called Bogota Bistro. The rice and beans played a big part of my meal there too.

Along my path of food identity I stumbled across Cuban food. For starters the place I would come to love (and write about here) is one that I found in any direction I turned. The locations are right by my day job and very popular in the office.  Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine would be on my list of lunch spots ever since.

Sophie’s is the brainchild of the Luna family. Living in New York City in 1996 the family wanted to open a Peruvian restaurant in honor of their heritage however they went a different way, clearly.

Their first “Sophie’s” opened in 1997 in downtown Manhattan near the World Trade Center. They decided they would serve Cuban food after a visit to one that inspired them. They wanted to have food that was delicious and available to everyone. They also thought it would be welcomed by fellow New Yorkers. I don’t even think they knew how successful they would be. As of 2001 there were already four in existence. After recovering from September 11th, 2001 they kept on building. Now there are several locations in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and one in Washington D.C.
Since Sophie’s entered my life the only other Cuban spot I had tried was Victor’s Café ( That one was a fast visit but a memorable one. I will be trying it again the next time I am in that area.
It was easy to see why the food at Sophie’s was so good. It was simple classic foods served up fresh that appeals to every palate. I love their grilled chicken and of course the rice and beans, but by far my favorite things they make are empanadas. Whether you choose the beef or chicken you will enjoy yourself. The outside is crunchy and the insides are soft and not over filled. They go down so easily. But their specialty is their green sauce. The secret recipe adds a spicy touch to any dish. You have to get it, it’s mandatory. I like to mix it into the rice and beans. I too cut up the empanadas and mix those in. When I am done my creation is envied by all who pass by. No matter whether you order out or dine in you will find the food is music to your mouth, as my lunch yesterday certainly was.
As I like to say:

“You know if I am eating it, then you know its good.”

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