Ricardo Barreras, a former research psychologist who grew up in Miami and whose parents are from Camagüey, runs the restaurant alongside his wife Lizbeth Moreno. They opened Pilar Cuban Eatery five years ago to bring authentic Cuban food, incorporating only traditional ingredients, to Brooklyn. He’s proud to serve what he boasts is the “most traditional” Cuban food in the city. “Cuban food is comfort food,” says chef Ricardo Barreras.
Barreras originally wanted to open a soup place. Be thankful that he broadened his horizons. Now the kitchen turns out an array of complexly flavored dishes, albeit in a weekly rotation, with only a few prepared each day. Fans of vaca frita, braised and seared skirt steak with lime, and paella need to plan accordingly.
Ingredients are smartly repurposed: mojo, a marinade of sour oranges, garlic and cumin, lends its tang to tender rotisserie chicken and pernil, slow-roasted pork, which also appears in the exemplary Cuban sandwich. House-smoked chorizo is stuffed into an eye round roast for boliche and mixed into garbanzo frito, a chickpea dish hearty enough for a main course and so thoroughly perfumed by the sausage that it’s hard to imagine how the vegetarian version could compete.
The ghost of Cuba’s perhaps most famous aplatanado, Ernest Hemingway, hovers over the restaurant, which is named after the writer’s beloved fishing boat — which he got in Brooklyn, as it happens, in 1934. Next to the giant chalkboard menu hangs a photograph of Papa, at the harbor in Cojimar.
Follow Pilar Cuban Eatery
393 Greene Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; (718) 623-2822, pilarcubaneatery.com
BEST DISHES Cuban sandwich, Pilar surf and turf, pernil, garbanzo frito, rotisserie chicken, cream of plantain soup, tamal en cazuela, caldo gallego, conch chowder, smoked short-rib empanada, Key lime pie.