A Lady Walks into a Bar…Cubacán

Cubacán, Asbury Park, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites

Where I Was

Cubacán, Asbury Park, NJ

When, Exactly

Tuesday, July 31, 5:31 p.m.

Where I Sat

I entered Cubacán from the street, then headed back into the space and hung a right before hitting the back doors, which lead to the outdoor seating area with great views of the Asbury boardwalk and stunning Atlantic Ocean. I headed straight to the end and plopped down in the second-to-last seat at the bar, just before the doorway leading into the cantina.

Who Served Me

Austin, who has worked at the bar for a time now, and she had the demeanor to prove it. She’s equal parts present and running. (Bartending on the boardwalk is no easy gig, ya’ll!)

Bartender’s Favorite Bite

When I ask Austin her favorite bite, she calls back to me and rapid-fire whispers, “Tostones con pollo, fried smashed plantains, tri-color peppers, shredded chicken, sofrito, garlic, jack cheddar, pico de gallo.” Her words are spoken so quickly it takes a review of the menu for me to fully comprehend what I just heard.

The Vibe & My Vantage Point

I was here years ago with dear friends and frankly, we consumed SO MUCH fabulous sangria that I mostly remember the drinking, the fish dish I had, the laughter with our friends, and the intimacy of our booth. At the time, I never realized how small the dining room was. Today the vibe was bright and lively, the outside seating which I had a good shot of, was hopping and the ocean view was, as always, spectacular. Sitting toward the bar’s end, I could not see into the dining room but could fully put my people-watching skills to work for both the boardwalk and the tall tables of four behind me.

What Quenched My Thirst

Pineapple Jalapeño Margarita, Cubacán, Asbury Park, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites
Pineapple jalapeño margarita

Pineapple Jalapeño Margarita, $13
Jalapeño-infused Milagro, tequila Cointreau pineapple fresh lime 

Frothy and fabulous was the first thought that crossed my mind as I sipped this simply presented margarita. It was difficult not to slurp all that deliciousness in at once. This drink was clean, spicy and not at all sweet, which I found surprising. I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t come with a little frill, but the perfect froth of the margarita made me happily forget all about it the moment I took my second sip.

What Fed My Soul

All of the dishes I sampled were from the $5 Tapas/Happy Hour menu, regular prices also listed.

Mejillones, Cubacán, Asbury Park, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites
Mejillones, $5 (regularly $13)

Blue bay mussels, fennel, jalapeño sofrito, salsa verde 

The presentation was delightful, with a small iron skillet atop a white plate. The server lifted the top upon placing it in front of me, and a large spoon sat aside the mound of miniature mussels powerfully wafting with an aroma reminiscent of pesto. The first bite revealed a delightful little mollusk, complete with all the texture and taste of the sea you’d expect. The mussels were plump and tender and without a trace of sand. However, the salsa verde lacked the pop I was expecting from the fennel jalapeño described on the menu. It did, in fact, taste like pesto with a heavy hand of basil and the sofrito added a great amount of delicate moisture to the bottom of the dish. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, and the sauce was sumptuous, but this selection was definitely not served as it was described or as I anticipated.
Sliders, Cubacán, Asbury Park, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites
Slider de Cerdo
Slider de Cerdo, $5 (not listed on regular menu)
BBQ pulled pork, housemade coleslaw

The sliders arrived in an unconventional format, served open faced on a sliced, unseeded, French-style loaf bread. There was no coleslaw in sight and a small mound of unmelted shredded cheese sat beneath the pulled pork. Again, the description belied the dish that arrived. I took my first bite, still thinking about the coleslaw and found the bread delightfully soft and a welcome companion to the hearty pulled pork. Not too saucy, the pulled pork was tender and the slight bit of cheese was easily identified in each bite. It added a nice contrast to the sweetness of the BBQ. Next time, I’d ask for the side of slaw.
Empanada, Cubacán, Asbury Park, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites

Empanadas, $5 (regularly $11)
Chorizo, chicken, cheesesteak, or Cubano

I ordered the chicken, and mind you, having just enjoyed an empanada from Fuze over the weekend, the bar was set ridiculously high for this next experience. When it arrived, I passed judgement based on the presentation but kept my mind open to the possibility of greatness. Did I find greatness? No. It was fine if not a little underwhelming. The crusty shell of the empanada was on the dry side. The center was lackluster in its combination of the traditional ingredients of pulled chicken, peas, carrots, and spices, which were somewhat lost amidst the density of the empanada shell. I would try them again, if only to give the kitchen a fair shot.

Beyond the Bar

Cubacán is in a great location at the heart of the Asbury Park boardwalk. You’ll find beautiful views of the ocean and a lovely place to stroll and people watch after your visit.

Cubacán, Asbury Park, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey BitesHappy Hour
Tuesday through Thursday, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Friday, 5:00 p.m. to close
Saturday, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

When to Show
Monday through Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Thursday and Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Sunday, Noon to 9:30 p.m.

Know Before You Go!
Prices, hours, and menus are subject to change. Please check the restaurant’s website for the latest information available.

800 Ocean Avenue
Asbury Park, NJ 07712

This article was not paid for, nor influenced by, the restaurant/bar featured in this column.

A Lady Walks into a Bar is owned and trademarked by Gabrielle Garofalo.

Cubacán, Asbury Park, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites