Metro Weekly

Savor: Cuba Libre’s Campfire Cabins

Cuba Libre offers a unique destination for a fun, casual, full-service dining experience

cuba libre
Cuba Libre: Churros — Photo: Daniel Martinez

Over the summer, Cuba Libre made it possible for up to 80 guests at any given time to escape their usual stay-at-home routines with the conversion of the parking lane out front. Now the temporary open-air dining area has been retrofitted anew, as a rustic mountain pavilion with six pod-like cabins, each surrounded by clear 8-foot-high vinyl windbreaks on three sides offering protection against wind and drifting airborne viruses.

Each cabin features an octagonal propane fire pit table, Adirondack-style chairs and side tables, and a Bluetooth speaker accommodating up to six guests who are invited to order from a specially crafted menu of appetizers, light fare, desserts, and hot adult beverages. Also available: blankets for rent for $8.

Two-time James Beard Award-winning Chef Guillermo Pernot has put a Cuban twist on several items on his campfire menu, available outdoors only. Take his version of a soup and sandwich combo, for example, featuring West Indies-style calabaza squash soup and a smoked turkey sandwich with provolone and Swiss cheese and yellow mustard-pickle relish on a toasted brioche.

Cuba Libre — Photo: Daniel Martinez

Or you could order Mamá Amelia’s Empanadas, either beef or chicken served with aji-sour cream sauce. S’mores further enhance the cabin experience, with the sweet snack made even sweeter by using bittersweet chocolate and rum ganache plus the addition of sweet shredded coconut to complement the marshmallows and Graham crackers. Also available is Churros con Chocolate, crispy cinnamon sugar-dusted fried dough with chocolate dipping sauce.

Guests can wash that all down with a seasonal selection of hot and cold drinks, ranging from an Apple Cider Caipirinha with cachaça, apple cider, sugar, lime, and guarapo, to an Abuelita Hot Chocolate, or Mexican chocolate and brown sugar spiked with dark rum and white Crème de Cacao, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, and served with a chocolate straw.

It all adds up to a unique destination for a fun, casual, full-service dining experience — even one that’s a little campy in an Insta-worthy way, thanks to a Billy Big Mouth Bass singing robotic fish and a giant 8-foot tall red Adirondack chair set up in the center of the pavilion.

The use of contactless technology facilitates quick visits by guests who can order and pay from their own devices. Furthermore, guests are offered bags to store their face masks while seated as well as individually wrapped antiseptic wipes to “double clean” anything during their visit.

The Campfire Cabins are open during the restaurant’s regular operating hours: Mondays through Thursdays between 4 and 9 p.m., Fridays from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 11 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m. Cuba Libre is at 801 9th St. NW. Call 202-408-1600 or visit www.cubalibrerestaurant.com.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.

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