Bread + Butter: Nuevo Cubano Cuisine in Coral Gables
Alberto Cabrera speaks pure Spanglish. He says pero instead of but. His grandmother is abuela. His landlord? Un viejo cubano -- an old Cuban man. His words drift from English to Spanish in a stream.
billwisserphoto.com Bread + Butter in Coral Gables.
In his family, he's known as pan con mantequilla (bread and butter). Twenty years ago, during a trip to Cuba, his aunt coined the pet name. Cabrera hadn't eaten anything but bread and butter for days. "It was a time when food was really scarce," he recalls. The name stuck.
Now the 37-year-old has become fixated on Cuban cuisine. "I'll take mariquitas and un chicharrón over chicken wings any day," he says. And he's creative about it. At his inaugural restaurant, Bread + Butter, he's reinventing the food of his childhood and making it modern, melding ingredients such as lechón asado, black truffles, and sriracha.
See also: Bread + Butter in Coral Gables (Photos)
A Cuban-American chef with gray eyes and a chocolate-colored beard, he has a fanaticism that's rooted in his past. He reminisces about lunches he once shared with his father -- sitting at a Cuban counter and reaching for the straw in a malted milk.
So it's fitting he named his first restaurant after his family nickname. The "gastrocounter" concept -- Cuban cafeteria meets American-style gastropub -- wasn't inspired by the moniker, though. His idea, rather, came from a dusty coffee machine.
Last year, he received an unexpected call. A buddy had an empty restaurant space in Coral Gables. Cabrera, who'd just completed a stint at the Local Craft Food & Drink, a favorite in the Gables, toured the vacant place. In a backroom, he saw a dusty Pilon cafetera. An epiphany struck: Coral Gables didn't have an old-school Cuban cafeteria.
"We wanted to do something very Cuban, pero our whole thing is that we didn't want to make it in-your-face Cuban," he says, poking fun at Versailles, a boisterous Calle Ocho restaurant he loves. There, he says, the din of hundreds of people bellowing in Spanish can overwhelm wide-eyed tourists.