I have an addiction to cuban coffee. But it’s a healthy addition… or so I think. If I am out of town, I crave it, when I am in town I crave it… you get the point. That said, I have my favorite places to go, but at the top of the list is the Cuban Coffee Queen. The 3 best items on the cuban coffee queen key west menu are…. wait for it… Cafe con Leche, Bucci and Pan Cubano.
If you are new to town, the first stop for your morning cup of coffee should be for cuban coffee. Skip Starbucks and move on down to a local joint for a strong cup of cuban coffee. This is truly an experience you will not forget. Face it, were not going to Cuba anytime soon so tasting cuban coffee in Key West is pretty darn close.
With two locations you can get your coffee fix in Old Town pretty easy. If you are new to cuban coffee here’s a quick overview. Cubans like, no love, their coffee on the rich and sweet side. As one local told me, some Cubans believe sugar to a food group. True cuban coffee is smooth, bold and not bitter. It goes down like soft black silk. To order, you tell them how many scoops of sugar to add to the cup. When I say scoop, I mean scoop because it’s not teaspoons but heaping tablespoons. If you normally order standard Italian style coffee, you will pick this up really quickly. But, keep in mind, cuban coffee is sweeter than its Italian counterpart. It is smooth and not bitter so a shot of cuban espresso is sweet when you compare it to the strong flavor of Italian espresso.
Cafe con Leche
I usually order a small (12oz) Cafe con Leche with 2 (meaning 2 scoops of sugar). I have been behind others who order with three and even four scoops, that’s too sweet for me. What’s neat about cuban coffee is you get to create your perfect morning cup of coffee. For comparison, a Cafe con Leche is very similar to a latte. It is simply cuban espresso served with steamed milk. There is some debate, on the type of milk – should it be condensed milk or regular… but to me, it really doesn’t matter. The main ingredient is the cuban espresso; its flavor and sweetness shine through and truly make the drink.
Of course, if it’s hot, and you are not in the mood for something hot to drink, you can always order your Cafe con Leche iced. It is just as good.
When I really want to savor the smooth intoxicating flavor of true cuban coffee, I have a bucci. This is a shot of cuban expresso (equal parts coffee and sugar) served in a plastic shot cup. It is strong, but very smooth. A better deal is a colada which is a double bucci – enough to share with someone…. maybe.
My first experience to Bucci was on a food tour. Thankfully for that tour, I found a new way to enjoy cuban coffee. I had expected cuban espresso to be similar in taste to Italian espresso – strong and a little on the bitter side. What I didn’t know about was the addition of the sugar. Sugar is brewed and stirred into the espresso, to create a smooth sweet elixir which we call bucci – Cuban espresso.
As with most expressos it can provide a jolt or kick to your morning, which is why it is served in a shot cup. But I must confess, I do order the Colada (a double shot) even if I don’t have someone to share it with. I sip on it throughout the morning and it retains its wonderful flavor even if I let it sit to get room temperature – or even slightly cool. A Colada can last me a while, well depends on how the morning is going.
My go to for breakfast is the pan cubano. This is butter on pressed cuban bread, sort of like a panini, but I think better. Occasionally I get the guava and cream cheese on the pressed cuban bread, it’s sweet from the guava with a little bit of tang from the cream cheese.
Cuban bread is a simple white bread very similar to French and Italian bread. It does have slightly different ingredients as it contains a small amount of fat from either lard or vegetable shortening. It is not as round as a French or Italian bread, it is more rectangular in shape. If you have ever had a Cuban sandwich on authentic cuban bread, then you understand its taste and texture. Much like cuban coffee, I crave a really good cuban bread.
The original location is at 284 Margaret Street (waterfront). Very much in the heart of the tourist section of town. If out on Duval and you want a cup? Head over to the Key Lime Square and visit their downtown location. The original location has the iconic Key West mural on its wall. While you wait, take a picture in front of the mural. I think it is just as iconic as the Southernmost Buoy. Keep in mind this location is mostly for order pick ups. There are no tables, just a few benches you can relax on while you wait for your order.
If you are looking for a place to get out of the sun and sit and enjoy your coffee, then head on down the the downtown location. Located in the Key Lime Square, on Duval, it is under the trees and off the hustle and bustle of Duval, yet close to everything. There are tables to sit and relax at as well as a cover over top, should you want to get out of the rain. The trees in Key Lime Square provide shade from the sun too.
Bottom line, I love cuban coffee and hope you will too. I truly believe you cannot go wrong if you order, what I think, are the 3 best items on the Cuban Coffee Queen Key West menu. Once you try these, then keep on trying different things on the menu. Taking the mystery on how to order is step one… now feel free to order, taste and enjoy a cup for yourself.