I went out to dinner the other day and found myself in a Cuban restaurant. I don't know much about that country other than they make cigars, Fidel Castro lives there and they make a damn good sandwich, but as of Monday, their food owns my heart. Let me explain. Some friends and I went out to do a quick errand and we thought we should grab a quick bite afterwards. Six hours, 21 Mojitos and three Negro Modelos later, we stumbled our asses out of the restaurant praising all things Cuba. If I would have seen Fidel Castro at that moment, I probably would have given him a high five, a hug and a hummer. (Is he still alive? If not, I take back the hummer offer...that's gross.)
The restaurant was called Madera and it's in Long Island City, Queens. My friends and I arrived moments after they opened and plopped our thirsty selves at the bar. The sign that said $6 Mojitos is what lured us in. Seriously, I can't think of many places that I will not venture into if it promises me a $6 Mojito. I think even if the Army recruited that way, I'd consider signing up: The Army. Be All You Can Be with $6 Mojitos. Anyhoo, our bartender was named Carolina (pronounced Car-o-leen'-a) and she was nothing short of perfection. She whipped us up the tastiest Mojitos and had a smile the whole time she did it. I loved that she used raw sugar in it instead of simple syrup, because the occasional piece of sugar that came up through the straw was like winning a prize. Loved it. I watched her make the drinks and was impressed with her professionalism. I mean she used tongs and not her fingers to pick up the limes and mint. That's a pro. When I asked her how long she had had this job, she said, "It's not my job, it's my profession." I swoon with jealousy at someone who can say that and truly mean it. And Carolina meant it. She recommended items on the menu and told us what she thought was the best and what she thought was lacking. We all hate it when a server says "everything is delicious" because we know it's not true. When I almost ordered the chicken croquettes, Carolina told me that there are things she thinks are better but didn't say they were bad. She was just honest. I like her more and more every minute. I ordered the pallomillia steak sandwich and it was just as good as my Goddess Bartender said it would be. The chimichurri sauce tasted like it had come from Heaven after sliding down a rainbow and landed on a piece of bread. A friend ordered lechon asado con mojo criolla, which was slow roasted pork that was supposed to melt in your mouth. That pork done melted on the fork. So good. We finished our meal with fried ice cream because if a place has that on the menu, I am going to order it. It's fried ice cream. Duh.
But back to Carolina. She wiped down her bar constantly and never failed to be ready to make us another drink. And then she did something that ensured her place in my tiny black heart forever: she gave us our fourth round for free. I don't know what celebratory customs there are in Cuba, but if I did, I would have done it. Instead I just giggled like a little girl and clapped my hand together over and over as I bounced in my seat. I think it's so smart when a bartender picks up a round. She's investing in her customers and making us want to come back. We were so happy that we were given a free fourth round, that we ordered a fifth. Well played, Carolina.
I told her about this blog and I hope she reads it. I even gave her a copy of my New York Post article because I just happened to have one in my pocket. If you read this, Carolina, give me a sign! Another shout out to Kizzie who was working the floor and was just as sweet as my Mojito was. You should go to Madera and check it out. You will not be disappointed. And no, I did not get paid to write this. I just loved it. Carolina did one last thing that made me know she is a pro. As we we left, she told my Brit friend, "Cheers." Once again, she shows she knows how to gauge a guest and make them feel at home. It was the icing on the big Mojito cake. (Note to self: Google a Mojito cake recipe). A great night of food, rum, good service, rum, good friends and rum.
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