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A taste of Cuba: The Mambo Grill

lthough people unfamiliar with Cuban food might think it’s similar to Mexican, Cuban cuisine is highly eclectic ó a combination of influences from Spanish, French, African, Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese cuisine.
With so many influences it is hard to think that the food would be anything more than just a mixture of random ingredients, but truthfully it is very delicious.
Cuban dishes often contain tender meats that melt in your mouth with a sauté of onions, green peppers and garlic. Side dishes usually include steamed rice or black bean soup.
Three months ago, Salisbury got its first Cuban restaurant, Mambo Grill.
Located in the Innes Street Marketplace shopping center off Faith Road, the Mambo Grill is a true gem. The owners, Luis Torres and David Sanchez, both born in Cuba, are longtime friends who decided to take on this project together. Torres has been living in the United States for 12 years. He and his family have recently moved to Salisbury after coming up from Florida to visit family friend Sanchez.
After six months of preparation, Sanchez and Torres opened Mambo Grill, unsure of how well their business was going to do. Torres explained that he was nervous that people would not be excited to try something so new. However, the city of Salisbury proved that he had nothing to fear.
There has been a wide range of customers, and people generally come back looking for more ó which has been gratifying for the owners.
Because Torres and Sanchez are from the eastern part of Cuba, the food they serve is a mixture of Spanish and African influences.
You can trust that this food is truly authentic ó or as one enthusiastic customer says, “the closest thing you can get to real Cuban food.” Most of the the dishes are cooked by the owners themselves.
The Mambo Grill offers a very warm environment. Warm not only in its decoration but also through the employees. On the day we visited, the customers ranged from young to old, and most seemed to be regulars. People were saying hello to one another and greeting the owners and employees.
You get a true sense of culture at Mambo Grill. Customers and the employees greet one another in Spanish as well as English. The owners and employees know the dishes very well and are excited to explain them to anyone who is interested.
It is a great place to go when you need a smile put on your face and a delicious meal in your stomach.
When you walk into the restaurant, you go to the counter to order your meal, and then pay. A deli-style arrangement heightens the casual atmosphere that makes the grill even more appealing.
The Mambo Grill offers hot meals including chicken, pork, and beef, as well as rice and black bean soup. There are pastries available to enjoy after your meal, assuming you have the room. One of the pastries is a flaky dough containing guava, “the fruit of Cuba,” according to Torres.
There are a couple of food items that are unfamiliar to most Americans. Yuca Frita is a side dish that is similar to a French fry. Yuca is a starchy vegetable that is cooked and served in the same way as potatoes. Mambo Grill also serves plantains, which are traditional in Cuban cuisine. Plantains are similar to bananas, but are longer in length, thicker skinned and starchier.
The prices at Mambo Grill are as amazing as the food, with yummy pastries priced at only 99 cents and the Cuban special costing $9. The family meal package ó a chicken and a half with four sides ó is a great deal at only $21. Takeout is available.
With great prices and delicious food, it is no wonder why people keep coming back.
Mambo Grill is open Mon.-Sat. from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For information, call 704-637-0192.
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Leigh Hougland, a senior at Salisbury High School, is an intern for the Post.

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