Grabbing a cafecito and a Cuban sandwich will be a lot easier for French Quarter residents when Cuban cafe and bar El Libre (508 Dumaine St., 504-309-2699; www.ellibrenola.com) opens Sept. 16.
The venture is run by several partners, including Blake Lindberg, Konrad Kantor and Bruce Fowler. Lindberg said they decided on the Cuban theme, imagining a place where passersby could stop in for a cup of Cafe Bustelo, a pressed Cuban sandwich or a daiquiri.
"There's really not any other Cuban places, at least like this one, in the city," Lindberg says.
The refurbished space features pale green walls covered with drawings and stencils, including several of Ernest Hemingway. The jewel-box storefront has a few seats downstairs and a small upstairs alcove. There is seating for about 20 people.
Chef Barbara Stamatelatos' menu includes a handful of sandwiches, breakfast items, sides and sweets. There is a classic Cuban sandwich made with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles from local brine masters French Pickl'er. Another version features roasted turkey, and a vegetarian adaptation includes black beans, avocado and Swiss cheese. All sandwiches are pressed on French bread. Sides include black beans, avocado salad and rice.
Breakfast features a build-your-own format with eggs, cheese, avocado and other fixings. Pastry chef Leah Tenace makes sweet plantain bread, rum-soaked drunken tres leches cake and an assortment of cookies.
Kantor, who formally helmed the bar at nearby steakhouse Doris Metropolitan, runs the drinks program, offering a trio of classic Cuban cocktails: daiquiris, Cuba libres and mojitos.
El Libre opens at 7:30 a.m. and closes around 11 p.m. It's open later on weekends and is closed on Tuesdays.