Monday, October 29, 2012

A Taste of Havana in Downey

Tropicana Bakery and Cuban Cafe
10218 Paramount Blvd.
Downey, CA 90241

At my day job a truck driver and I got into a discussion about food. As soon as he found out that I was a food blogger, he rattled off a lot of restaurants for me to try. I wrote down about six of them to try, but I forgot to write down his name, sorry about that buddy. Anyways, one of the places he suggested was Tropicana Bakery and Cafe in Downey.

We only make it up this way about six times a year, but I knew one of those times I wanted to stop here. I love Cuban food, and was definitely in the mood for a Cuban sandwich for sure. We got to Tropicana at about 5pm on a Sunday. The restaurant is split in half, with one side being the bakery side, and the other side being the cafe. When we walked in the front door there was a line for the bakery, but we got a table right away in the cafe.

The restaurant was very busy. Lots of families filled the 20 or so tables in this bustling restaurant. They had the requisite Cuban pictures hanging on the wall, along with many images of the Cuban flag being represented. The waiters and waitress's were almost all fitted with fedoras. Even the climate inside of the restaurant resembled Havana, because it was so hot because they do not have air conditioning. After a bit of a wait we ordered our food, and this is how it came out for us.

We had just come from a party, so I was trying to not fill up on bread, but the bread served in Cuban restaurants makes it so hard to pass up. The bread here at Tropicana was served hot, and toasted perfectly. With just a hint of garlic and lots of butter, this basket could disappear quickly if I wasn't saving myself for my meal.

I am at an impasse as to which Cuban sandwich I like better, the regular Cuban sandwich or the media noche. At Tropicana I selected the Media Noche ($5.50 to try. Katie and I split this rather large sandwich. This sandwich had some good things going for it, and some that were a little off for me. The sweet egg bread was not as sweet as I would have liked. It held the sandwich together perfectly, but kind of got the usual balance of this sandwich off kilter. This sandwich definitely had more meat than I am used to on a Cuban sandwich, which was a good and bad thing. The good part is you get more for your money, but the bad part was that it needed more mustard and pickles to regain the balance of the sandwich. The meats here are pretty good. Very tender, with lots of flavor. This was a good media noche sandwich, but not the best I have had. The chips that came with this sandwich also deserve some mentioning. They were good and oily, which made them pretty good in my book. Well worth the under six dollar price tag.

If there is one thing that I know when we enter a Cuban restaurant, it's that Katie will more than likely order the Arroz con Pollo ($11.99). True to form, that is what she got. She likes her arroz con pollo a little more like a soup, or at least a little more liquid. The chicken was tender and the rice had a real good flavor. This was a very comforting dish that wrapped her insides like a warm blanket.

I have decided that this is my, "go to" item in Cuban restaurants, the Masitas de Puerco Fritas ($11.59), Fried Pork chunks. How does that even sound bad? At Tropicana they fried these pork chunks with onions. Some of the pork chunks were a little over done, but the smaller pieces were perfectly tender. The flavor of the pork was right up there with some of the best I have had. I like mixing the black beans and rice together, and this was solid as well. Lastly, I wanted to mention the plantains here. These plantains were not as sweet as some others that I have had, which I kind of liked. I am not much of a plantain guy, but these were another hit in my book.

Tropicana Bakery and Cafe was well worth the trip to Downey. This is some real solid Cuban food, which is hard to come by in Southern California. I thought the prices were fair, and the menu was large enough that you could definitely find most of your Cuban favorites on it. The downfall for this restaurant could be its service. We waited far too long to order, far too long to get drink refills, and far too long to pay our check. Our waiter was nice, but disappeared for long lapses at a time. Not sure if this is the norm here, or if we just hit them at the wrong time. In any case it would not prevent us from coming back here again. Wish I had written my truck driver friends name down, so I could thank him for sending us here.

Out of five accordions, (because the city of Downey is the birthplace of one of the best known accordionist's, Weird Al Yankovic), five being best to zero being worst, Tropicana Bakery and Cuban Cafe gets 3 accordions.

For more information on Tropicana Bakery and Cuban Cafe, click here:

Tropicana Bakery on Urbanspoon


  1. Tropicana is great for more bakery/cafe foods, like pastries and sandwhiches, but Florida, only about a mile down the street from Tropicana, has much better home style food, like Ropa Vieja, Vaca Frita, Arroz con Pollo, etc. It's on Lakewood and Florence, check it out!

  2. Anonymous - Thanks for the tip. I have put this on our list of places to try. Vaca Frita sounds so good right now! Thanks for taking the time to comment.