CubaMex – Albuquerque, New Mexico

CubaMex on Coors

Because Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and a succession of Spanish explorers followed suit, you might expect that Spanish cuisine would have proliferated across the new world.  Instead, Spanish discoveries included indigenous cooking techniques and ingredients that forever altered the way scions of Spain ate. At the time of conquest, the European diet was principally comprised of bread, olive oil, olives, “meat,” and wine.   The “new world”–Mexico in particular–was rich, fecund, and replete with such crops such as beans, pumpkins, chilies, avocados, tomatoes, cocoa, cotton, tobacco, corn, and cassava, foods that could not be found in Mother Spain.

All the territories explored and conquered by the Spaniards had their own bounty of unique and delicious culinary offerings.  Because traditional Spanish foods were an ocean away, it made sense the Spaniards would adopt indigenous foodstuff.   Many of those foods were ultimately introduced to the European continent.  It was the advent of eating not just for survival, but for pleasure.  To some extent, the vast variety of new ingredients and techniques were also shared among conquered lands.  Solely from the perspective of culinary diversity and deliciousness, it was a win-win.  The uniqueness of foods among such Spanish-held territories as Mexico, the Philippines and Cuba and the distance from one to another also explains why foods in those nations remain so dissimilar and why the foods of countries conquered by Spaniards is so different.

The Front Dining Room

English novelist Rudyard Kipling’s statement “Never the twain shall meet” wasn’t specifically penned to describe why, for example, why Mexican and Cuban foods are so vastly different.   Sassy Spoon blogger Jamie explores the topic further: “Unlike Mexican cuisine, Cuban food is not spicy because it’s a mix of Spanish, African, and other Caribbean cuisines. Chilies are not even grown in Cuba which is why ‘heat’ has never really been a key ingredient in Cuban cuisine.  Cuban food is not bland though. All Cuban recipes are well seasoned and, as a result, they taste more savory than spicy Mexican food.”

Cuban and Mexican foods may not have fused in the manner of so many weird culinary culture mishmashes, but that’s a good thing.  Both cuisines offer a wealth of delightful flavor profiles.  Both offer a delicious diversity in the rich tapestry that is dining across the fruited plain.  Cuban food has not exploded across the world’s culinary stage as has Mexican food, but that may change as more Cuban restaurants are popping up and giving diners yet another delicious option.  Albuquerque’s most recent addition (as of July, 2023) offering Cuban food is CubaMex.  As the name suggests, the restaurant offers the foods of both Cuba and Mexico–not as an amalgamation, but each served in its distinctive glory under one roof.

Chips and Salsa

CubaMex occupies the space previously held by Ale’s Cakes, a short-lived Mexican eatery on Coors.   No, not the Coors near the geographical center of Albuquerque where Coors intersects with Montaño.  This is Coors where agrarian rurality meets urban sprawl.  For many of us, the quickest way to reach CubaMex is to take the Rio Bravo exit off I-25 and take a left (south) when you reach Coors.  Proceed about 1.5 miles and you’ll reach the nondescript shopping center that is now home to CubaMex, THE place to go when you don’t know whether you want Cuban or Mexican food…or both.

CubaMex is owned by Cuban-born Jorge Garcia and his bride Lorles, a Chihuahua, Mexico native.  Jorge lived and worked in Miami, Florida for four years before relocating to Albuquerque where he served as chef at El Molcajete when it first launched in 2022.  Lorles didn’t work for El Molcajete, but she did provide the desserts–one of which was the Carlotta with which we fell in love during our inaugural visit.  Fortunately our server informed us we could still find Carlottas in Albuquerque, albeit quite a distance from El Molcajete.

Sonoran Hot Dog

Much has changed since CubaMex assumed the lease.  The space seems brighter and more airy.  On Sundays the restaurant offers a buffet that includes both Mexican and Cuban favorites.  Two menus are delivered to your table.  One lists all the Cuban items, the other many of the Mexican favorites with which most of us are familiar.  If you’re prone to studying menus carefully, you’ll be at it for a while.  Fortunately, a basket of complimentary chips and salsa is ferried to your table while you’re perusing the menu.  Surprisingly,  it’s not a Mexican salsa, but a Cuban salsa.  We discerned mayonnaise, tomatoes and some mildly piquant item that gave the salsa a bit of personality.

Gone are the days in which hot dogs were garnished only with mustard, relish and maybe onions.  Today’s hot dogs have joined the ever-growing list of “not your mama’s” foods.  That is, unless your mom is from Tucson, Arizona where Sonoran hot dogs may well be the city’s most popular foods.  If you’ve never had a Sonoran hot dog, you’re in for a real treat.   Originally constructed in Hermosillo, Sonora they’re essentially a hot dog wrapped in bacon and grilled.  They’re usually served on a bolillo-style hot dog bun and topped with pinto beans, onions, tomatoes and additional condiments (often mayonnaise, mustard and a salsa).  CubaMex’s version includes pico de gallo, a welcome element of piquancy.  The only differences we were able to discern were in the hot dog bun and sheer size of this behemoth dog.  Instead of the Sonoran-style bolillo, the bread was akin to the bread used to construct a sub.   The hot dog itself was thick, garlicky and palate-pleasing.  We barely made a dent on it before determining if we wanted to order anything else, we’d have to save most of this Sonoran treasure for later.


Political novelist Richard Condon waxed poetic about his experiences with Mexican cuisine: “It becomes evident when the glorious plunge is taken, that to cook and eat Mexican food is to celebrate sensuality in every great chamber of this textured, perfumed, delicious, beautiful, and memorable gastronomic antiquity.”   Every time I partake of mole, I ponder just how beautiful and accurate Condon’s quote is.  Mexican food is all that he describes and so much more.  Mole is wonderfully complex, often created from as many as thirty ingredients which may include dried chiles, seeds, nuts, bread and sometimes, chocolate and more ingredients.  Mole can be so complicated that discerning its composition can be a delicious challenge.

Although Albuquerque’s very best mole was a few miles away at La Guelaguetza, when you’re craving mole, you’ve just got to have it.  Even if the chef is from Cuba where the only moles are spies.  It surprised me just how  good the mole is at CubaMex.  It’s a dark, rich color (somewhat darker than red chile) flecked with tender tendrils of shredded pork.  Served with corn or flour tortillas as well as beans, rice and a salad, it’s a melding of ingredients coming together to create a delicious composite.  More than so many moles I’ve enjoyed, this one bites back with a piquancy that’s more than discernible, but not quite tongue-tingling.  As with most mole, it’s both comforting and luxurious.

Fried Pork Ribs

My Kim’s perusal of the menu didn’t take nearly as long as mine.  As soon as she espied costillas fritas (fried pork ribs), her meal choice was set.  She loves fried pork ribs!  CubaMex’s version is quite good though my Kim likened them to short ribs.   She’s looking for Flintstonian ribs, large enough to tip over the table.  Size not withstanding, the ribs were meaty and delicious with a crispy crust that’s especially enjoyable.  Her ribs were served with congri (Cuban black beans and rice), a dish she had never before liked.  Her two chosen sides were plantains and green beans, both of which were also quite good.

The primary reason for our initial visit was my Kim’s craving for a Carlota, a Mexican lemon icebox cake).  The Carlota we had at El Molcajeton was light and frothy, made with a canvas of Mexican Maria cookies.  Layer upon layer of cookies were soaked in evaporated and sweetened condensed milks tinged with lemon juice.  That’s what we expected at CubaMex.  Instead, we were served a mousse-like dessert that only hinted at lemon and didn’t have those layers of moistened cookies.  The mousse was good, but not a candidate for best dessert of the year as was the Carlota at El Molcajeton.


As an aficionado of the culinary arts, I’m glad Spanish food didn’t proliferate across all the countries conquered by the Spaniards. America is so much better because of our culinary diversity. Albuquerque is so much better because some of that diversity is available under one roof.

4351 Coors Blvd., S.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 21 June 2023
COST: $$
BEST BET: Fried Pork Ribs, Mole, Horchata, Pepino-Pina Agua Fresca, Carlotta
REVIEW #1648

3 thoughts on “CubaMex – Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. Congrí is traditionally red beans and rice (the word is an amalgam (congos = red beans in one of the African languages, riz = rice in French) … Cubans nowadays themselves do sometimes refer to black beans and rice when cooked together as congrí and when cooked separately and then mixed (thus preserving the whiteness of the rice) as moros or moros y cristianos.

    I suspect that the Spanish had far more vegetables available in their diet previous to the Columbian exchange than you are giving them credit for: cabbage, carrots, parsnips, turnips, celery, beets, lettuce, onions, peas, spinach ….

    1. My favorite alternative name for Congri is “Moros Y Christianos.” I don’t always use it for fear of offending someone…and you know how I hate doing that.

      The list of vegetables available to the Spanish could have filled the entire blog post. Suffice to say, they ate well.

      1. Gil, you are at your best when you’re offending someone. 🙂 Please don’t ever stop. The Spanish have a small country with several rich and varied cuisines (which is common among European countries). It’s a culinary delight. I think (purely my opinion) that with the exception of Mexico, Latin American countries just don’t have the complexity and interest that the food of the mother country has. I’m not familiar with all of them of course but have some knowledge of Mexico, Argentina, Central America, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Cuban food is good but seriously I don’t think it’s very interesting. It’s most famous dishes e.g. Ropa Vieja come directly from Spain (Canary Islands) and they do a MUCH better job of the dish there.

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