Total Bill: $39.00 for two
La Isla is a Hoboken gem, a nondescript storefront on the town’s primary Washington Street real estate, and now a nearly two-decade veteran of the town’s ever-changing culinary scene.
The family function runs through the atmosphere in the highly efficient way this place is run, but more importantly, the hominess of its food.
Cafe Habana came to mind as soon as Jay and I sat down at the counter, sans the wait time — not that this place isn’t buzzing.
Their stuffed french toast, made famous on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, was out by the time we got there at noon on Saturday. From all the reviews, seems this is worth a revisit.
So we opted for more savory entrees, the first of which was also featured on television: the papa rallena. The fried ball of mashed potato was surprisingly not very greasy, with the creamy potato coated with a crunchy layer of bread crumbs, smothering the simply seasoned ground beef until you break it open. Add a dash of hot sauce and you’ll polish the whole thing off.
The tasajo con boniato was also on Diners Drive-ins and Dives and really embodies the genuineness of the Cuban food you’ll find here. The fluffy bed of yellow rice is juicy, mixed in with quartered Cuban sweet potatoes, which are true to their name. That sweetness fuses just right with the spicy braised dry-cured shredded beef.
The el cubano sandwich was a surprise miss being such a staple of Cuban restaurants. The roasted pulled pork was painfully dry and the flavor borderline tasteless.
As for beverages, their espressos get pretty rave reviews, although the heaviness of these dishes will probably have you wanting one of their batidos, or milkshakes, which comes in a variety of tropical flavors.
As I’ve said before, Hoboken dining is about finding the ones that are lasting through this town’s rapid transformation. And for Cuban, there need not be another than this family-run business.