Friday, September 18, 2015

Morita's Cuban Cafe

The Conch tradition of Cuban coffee shops is alive and well in Key West and I like them very much. You'd think this town would be saturated but they keep popping up. Some people I know swear by this or that place, not always the places tourists know of, Five Brothers and Sandy's being leading contenders. "Did you try the coffee at the gas station?" they say, "It's the best..." Really? But Cuban Coffee is what the Lower Keys operate on, and I dare say all the Styrofoam cups in North America end up down here where recycling is a vague concept not fully embraced.

So perhaps I should have been surprised when my wife noticed a new/old sandwich shop appear on the frontage facing Highway One on Cudjoe Key, a block from her gym. However Cudjoe, an under served island had no Cuban Coffee available so the former sandwich shop at this location could be expected to end up offering Cuban food... Five Brothers Two on Ramrod Key is fully five miles north of here...
Morita's is classic Cuban, a family run, hole in the wall business aimed at the take out market. Perhaps its a matter of economics or simply tradition but Cuban coffee shops don't offer traditional sit down amenities that modern North American coffee houses have embraced. Cubans a re strictly carry out. You may find a seat or a bench or a stool at a counter but these are not places to linger.
The bread is Cuban and looks like what passes for French bread in North America (true Frenchmen would blanch) but the soft spongy baguette shaped loaf is made with lard they say and it has its own imperceptible flavor. Wrapped and ready to go for working stiffs on the go:
We shared an egg breakfast sandwich and a couple of coffees, strong enough, sweet enough but not bitter. The sandwich had a salsa, pico de gallo, I've not been offered before on a Cuban sandwich. It made the thing unusual and good and distinctive. Clearly one cannot pile on these kinds of sandwiches daily but I hope we can get a (Styrofoam) container of lunch ion the Cuban style before too long, and see how that goes. Cuban food has come to Mile Marker 23, lots of parking and an easy pause on the road to Key West.
Key West's  Cuban culture is really home grown, and even though Cuban is usually equated with Miami by the outside world, Key West's Cuban culture is homegrown, indigenous and only partly integrated. We live in a  period of increased homogenization thanks to intense electronic "connection" so I particularly appreciate that fact that this is not a chain. 
Sometimes you want to sit and nurse a coffee in air conditioning, but sometimes you need to sip on the wild side and take your Styrofoam and hit the road, a rebel without a cause, Cuban style.