[2/2/2014 Update: I have heard it through the grapevine that Latin Xpress is now under new management with a new chef, so this review may no longer apply--if you've been recently, let us know what you think]
When I first moved to Tallahassee, I spent several months explaining to my northern friends and family that I was living in Panhandle, aka South Georgia/Armpit, Florida, not Peninsular, aka New York/Jewish/Miami/Cuban, Florida. Less dancing all night, getting plastic surgery, and kvetching about traffic; more Duck Dynasty.
That being said, Tallahassee is still in Florida and as a result, has more Cuban food options than the average U.S. City. This being Floribama, however, don’t anchor your expectations to Miami levels. Several of Tallahassee’s long lived Cuban restaurants are downright B.A.D. (I’m looking at you Gordo’s and Black Bean Cafe).
Nevertheless, there are a some bright spots on the Cuban scene in the Capital City, and my favorite of those is Latin Xpress.
Located in a surprisingly culinarily diverse bedraggled strip mall on Pensacola Street, Latin Xpress is an authentic family-owned Cuban eatery. How can you tell? First, the presence of the ubiquitous chachkies haphazardly plastered on the walls. Second, loud and continuous dance music on the stereo. Third, signs in the bathroom criticising your aim. Fourth, homey and genuinely warm service. Fifth, and most importantly, the awesome food.
Latin Xpress does most of your standard Cuban favorites and does them well. A solid Medianoche, juicy and succulent Lechon, crispy tostones, delicious beef empanadas, sweet and lovely maduros, admirably moist Moros, delicious guava cheese pasteles, and flan.
They make the best Ropa Vieja in town, hands down and the best black beans in the city.
Another stand out and more unique option is the Balserito, a pile of rice topped with a perfectly cooked, runny-yolked fried egg, embraced by an enormous piece of carne asada, crispy masitas de puerco, and sweet plantains. All accompanied by a side of black beans of course, lest you should leave the restaurant with your pants still fitting.
Basically, I can’t recommend Latin Xpress strongly enough if you are looking for real Cuban food in an appropriately low-key Cuban atmosphere. My only wish was that they start cooking Vaca Frita. But when I’m walking out swigging one of their super sweet and creamy Cafe con Leches I’m inclined to let that slide.