Sophie’s Cuban (a full review… in pictures)
You might be surprised to realize that I have never actually given Sophie’s a proper +/- on MidtownLunch. There was a mention of the Lexington location months and months ago, the reporting about the new 56th St. location, and then the live-blogging of the Grand Opening, but never a proper page that people could refer to for locations and a real +/-. So… here it is- in pictures (the best way to enjoy a place like Sophie’s).
An inside shot of the Lexington location. You have two dining options at Sophie’s. You can sit at a table and order from a waitress (on the left), or get in the cafeteria style line and order directly from the steam tables. If you get in the line, you have to take your food to go. This is especially confusing at the 56th St. location, where the tables are in the very back of the restaurant. If you want to sit and eat, you must bypass the crowds at the steamtable, and head directly to the back to order from the waitresses. The menu and prices are the same when you sit and order (but you do have to tip, making it a little more expensive.)
The back of the 56th St. location.
Two plates of food fixing to go out, at the 56th St. location.
More food porn, after the jump…
My first meal ever at Sophie’s… pernil (roast pork) with moros and maduros. Moros is the term for rice and beans already mixed together. At Sophie’s, for $8 you get a choice of one entree, and two sides. Unfortunately, rice and beans count as two seperate sides, so if you want rice, beans and plantains (my idea of the perfect combo)- you have to order the moros, which only count as one side, but are a little drier than rice with fresh beans. The other negative… Sophie’s moros is made with pinto beans, so if you like black beans, you can only get them as a seperate side. Maduros are the sweet fried plantains that I consider essential to any proper Cuban meal. Platanos Tostones are made from the same fruit, but cut, smashed and fried before they ripen, so they are more mealy, and usually not sweet at all. Sophie’s has both options.
Baked chicken with rice and black beans (as the two sides). Definitely not going to be dry…
Pescado Frito (or fried fish). Sophie’s entrees rotate depending on the day of the week, but fried fish is one of the options they have every single day.
Various grilled meats covered in onions. A staple of Cuban food. At Sohpie’s they’ve got chicken, steak, and pork chops. The chicken is much better than I expected, and a perfect option for the Cuban food beginner who might be scared off by the stewed meats (like Ropa Vieja, goat or oxtails).
The oxtails. Don’t be scared! Oxtails are delicious… and a Cuban specialty that is worthy of charging (and paying) an extra $2. It is one of two items on the menu they charge you more for (the Shrimp in garlic sauce is the other). Only available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, oxtails are exactly what they sound like- the tail of a cow. If you’ve never had them, you’re probably imagining a long tail served on a plate, but it’s a little less gross than that. The tail is cut into chunks so you have a little bone surrounded by a layer of meat. The pieces are then fried, and stewed until the meat is fall off the bone tender. You may say the secret ingredient is fat… which ends up coming out of the meat (and bones) and flavoring the sauce. Delicious! And a must have at least once in your life…
The cuban sandwich. Now this is something anybody could be down with. Don’t like rice, beans, plantains and weird stewed meats… order the cuban. Who doesn’t like sandwiches! A standard cuban is sliced ham, sliced pork, cheese, pickles and mustard served on a cuban roll (sort of like french bread) and pressed flat in a sandwich machine… and Sophie’s version is awesome. A highlight of the menu, and made in the proper Cuban Style (no salami, like the Margon version).
THE + (what people who like this place would say)
- Great cuban food, for decent prices
- Huge selection
- Amazing cuban sandwich
- It’s a chain, so it’s pretty clean (especially compared to places like Margon, La Strada & Cafe Cello). There are plenty of Latin places to eat in Midtown, but if “clean” chains give you comfort, Sophie’s is going to be your favorite of the bunch.
THE – (what people who don’t like this place would say)
- It’s a chain… so it doesn’t have that “feel like I’m eating in Miami” feel of Margon
- The morros is made with pinto beans… so if you want rice, black beans AND plantains you are going to have to suck it up and get moros, or pay extra.
- They don’t give you a ton of plantains when you order them as one of your two side dishes (last time, I only got three)
- The ordering line at the 56th St. location is very hectic, creating an “every person for themselves” type of environment. Not a very well designed location, and pretty confusing.
- If you want to eat in, you have to tip the waitress, making the meal slightly above the Midtown Lunch budget. If you go through the cafeteria line, you have to take your food to go.
Sohpie’s Cuban (multiples locations)
- 369 Lexington Ave. (btw. 40+41st), 212-922-3576
240 West 40th Street (btw 7+8th), 212-730-9200 link
805 Third Ave (btw. 49+50) in the Lower Level Food Court, 212-308-1024 link
There’s also three downtown locations for the few people who read this blog downtown
- 96 Chambers. (nr. Church), 212-608-9900
141 Fulton Street, 212-608-6769
- 73 New St., 212-809-7755
Also, since this piece was written, these two locations have become “Tina’s Restaurant”:
- 23 w. 56th St. (btw. 5+6th), 212-315-4313
- 179 Madison Ave. (btw. 33+34th), 212-679-3500