When you think of the cuisines of Detroit, you probably think Greek, Mexican, or Coney Island. You probably don't think Cuban. And while Detroit doesn't have an entire district dedicated to the fare, it does have one really good Cuban restaurant.
Vicente's Cuban Cuisine can be found on Library Street in the heart of downtown Detroit, where it's been thriving for the last 10 years. Opened in 2005 by mother-and-son team Vicente and Maria Vazquez, the restaurant is a hub for not just the country's food, but also the culture. Salsa lessons and dancing are offered every Friday and Saturday night from 10 p.m. to close, which may or may not require a couple of the bar's fruity and tropical caiparinhas and perhaps a pitcher of their delicious sangria. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, Toty Viola and Greco Freeman perform Latin jazz from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Throughout the week they serve traditional Cuban-style plates like paella, a rice dish with vegetables and seafood.
Other menu items include tapas like lamb and beef meatballs, known as albondigas caseras, and a Spanish potato and onion omelet called tortilla española. Seafood dishes made with shrimp, scallops, calamari, mussels, and clams appear on the menu alongside meats like roasted pork leg and poultry dishes like arroz con pollo.
Vicente's also offers a variety of gluten-free options, including that aforementioned paella. Their lechon asado, ropa vieja, palomilla, salmon a la parrilla, and other dishes are available to those with gluten sensitivities. Their kitchen is headed by chef Roberto Caceres, who has traveled extensively, learning about food along the way. He's worked as a chef on an oil platform and a cargo shop, landing his first cooking gig in the States at one of Miami's best Spanish restaurants. Six months after Vicente's opened its doors, he took over the chef position from Maria Vazquez, and has been there ever since.
Vicente's prides itself on its authentic food as much as its atmosphere. The space has a warm aesthetic with breezy tables rather than closed-off booths, which can feel delightfully exotic and romantic. The walls are painted a bright yellow; the tables are clothed. The service is undeniably friendly. The space isn't totally casual, but it also isn't over-the-top fancy. You'll feel comfortable there in a nice pair of jeans after work or in something a little fancier after a show at the Opera House. Come time for salsa dancing, the lights are dimmed, and the place has more of a club feel.