Loco mojo 

Crazy Cuban keeps its head to serve sound dishes

The Crazy Cuban sounds more like an ethnic slur than a well-devised marketing tool for a restaurant. But maybe you could call a restaurant serving up authentic Cuban just a few miles from Marietta's Big Chicken crazy. Whatever the name, the Crazy Cuban offers traditional dishes that include roasted or fried pork, fried plantains, bananas, yuca, long-grain white rice and black beans. Its serene location is a mile from Cobb Parkway's neon extravaganza of fast and corporate food chains.

On a weeknight, we were the only diners in the place. There was a noticeable lack of music and the festive, brightly painted walls didn't offer much comfort or cheer. Luckily, our server did. She quickly attended to us, made jokes, explained the menu and made us feel right at home. Although there wasn't much going on the evening we dined, they have killer live salsa music on the weekends that perks the place up.

Fried foods in some Latin American countries are as at home on the table as they are on the traditional, comfort-style Southern table. However with Cuban food, little of it is fried. Meat is typically slow-roasted until it practically falls off the bone.

That said, we did start with a fried item, the empanadas ($2.95) stuffed with ground beef. I highly recommend the fried turnovers' flaky crust and spiced meat, although we unfortunately did find a stem from an herb of some sort. That put one of the diners off biting willy-nilly into the little meat-filled pastry.

Our entrees included two of the house specialties: lechon asado and ropa vieja. The lechon asado ($10.50) was a pile of tender, pulled pork roasted in a mojo sauce and topped with large slices of onions. The mojo, a traditional olive oil, lemon juice and garlic mixture similar to vinaigrette, was well balanced. I was a bit overwhelmed with mojo, however, since I also ordered the yuca con mojo -- boiled yuca with minced, fried garlic -- as a side dish. The boiled yuca was more than I could consume partly due to the overwhelming taste of the mojo in which it was soaked.

The ropa vieja ($10.99), translated literally as "old clothes," didn't pan out so well. The shredded beef brisket is traditionally combined with spices and a tomato sauce, but this version resembled barbecue more than anything. Green peas and red pepper slivers garnished the top but didn't add much to the beef or the overwhelming tomato sauce flavor. I continued coming back to the dish, hoping to find something more, to taste the actual flavor of the meat, but the tomato mixture proved too overwhelming. But we all enjoyed the masitas de puerco ($9.50), succulent fried cubes of pork that remained tender despite their time in the deep fryer.

The sides ran the gamut of tastes and textures. Yuca frita, a fried version of the starchy yuca plant, was dry and needed something to liven it up. Moros, a mixture of white rice and black beans were moist and flavored with bay leaves and other mild spices. The tostones, salty, fried green plantains, and maduros, sweet, tender fried ripe plantains, both were good, though I prefer the sweet maduros. Yellow rice, French fries and grilled vegetables also are available sides, but why pass up the more ethnic choices?

Both desserts we tried, the tres leches and flan, were as sweet as you can get. The tres leches cake is soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and regular milk and unless you have a serious sweet tooth, a few bites is all you can handle. The flan was standard fare, well-made and quite good.

The Crazy Cuban has a full list of nearly a dozen sandwiches available for lunch as well. You can get the dinner entrees like the ropa vieja between two pieces of bread or the more common Cubano of roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles.

The spot has survived years at the location and continues to draw locals and those searching for authentic fare. There's a reason for that. They may be passionate about puerco and mad about mojo, but there's nothing crazy about good Cuban food.

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