As soon as you enter Cubano's, original paintings by Cuban artists take you to the cities and countryside of the Caribbean island. Bright colors give you the feeling of vacationing in the tropics.
"It is classic but relaxing. The colors of the walls are vibrant. You have something peaceful with a background that makes you feel like you are some place very alive," said Aldolfo Mendez, co-owner of Cubano's.
The retired pharmacist and his wife, Rocio Anzola, opened the downtown Silver Spring restaurant at 1201 N. Fidler Lane in 2001. Like the decor Anzola selected for Cubano's, the story behind its creation is an appreciation for life, family and tradition.
"When I went to Venezuela in 1999 for my mom's funeral, I said things are not too good here. Let's see if we can come up with an idea for whoever wants to get out," explained Mendez.
Years before Mendez came to the U.S. to study, his parents left Cuba and took refuge in Venezuela. Cubano's later became a way to give relatives a place to work and a new start in America.
"At one point, it was such a long list that we had 14 people living in our house at the same time," said Mendez.
Most of those family members became independent and moved on to other occupations. However, Aldolfo's sister, Mily Mendez, now manages day to day operations at Cubano's. She is responsible for maintaining the lively atmosphere and authentic flavors that make the restaurant unique.
"We really mean authentic cuisine in the sense that what we have in here is what we used to have in my house," said Mendez, the co-owner. "Every time I get in here, the smells remind me of the 24th of December when the family gets together for Christmas Eve. It is the same flavors."
What are those flavors? Check Bites Nearby tomorrow to find out what Cubano's cuisine is all about and what some patrons think of the restaurant.