“My house is your house,” owner Isidro Castro said, explaining the philosophy behind the island-style cottage cafe he and his wife opened recently at 208 W. Howry Ave. in DeLand.
Chicas Cuban Cafe, which the Castros opened Sept. 29, has been the talk of the town for their signature Cuban sandwiches and authentic Cuban espresso served in an atmosphere reminiscent of Little Havana.
Isidro and Ileana Castro are both from Havana, Cuba. They each lived in Miami, but met each other after they both moved to DeLand.
“We both love to cook, for family, parties, and always wanted a place of our own,” Ileana Castro said.
They carved out a 40-seat cafe inside the building that was once home to the law offices of well-known DeLand attorney Joe Scarlett. There’s a covered outside patio with a mural that depicts a classic car, decorated with a small Cuban flag, driving on the beach.
Inside, wooden floors lead you to a brick fireplace with a large menu board overtop, highlighting the authentic Cuban and island choices.
The counter has the red-black-and-gold Chicas Cafe logo and a good view of the industrial espresso machine and Supreme Bustelo espresso bags lining the wall.
Also at the counter, you are tempted by delights such as the guava-and-cheese pastry and empanadas.
“We source our Cuban bread from a bakery in Miami only producing the highest quality, because I want my guests to eat what I would want to eat,” Ileana said.
I sat at a small table inside and was greeted by my server while I calculated how much food I was going to be able to handle.
Chicas Cuban Cafe offers a few breakfast sandwiches. The pan con tortilla, an omelette sandwich with ham, onions, cheese and mayo on grilled Cuban bread, was a great place to start.
I paired that with one of the cafe’s many specialty coffee offerings, Espresso X, consisting of one shot of espresso and one part condensed milk, topped with milk froth. I felt the caffeine running through my veins and was wide awake for the rest of the meal.
Chicas Cuban Cafe offers nine sandwiches. I went with my personal favorite, media noche, built with serrano ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and mayo, on semisweet bread and served with plantain chips.
The sweet bread is the only difference from a regular Cuban sandwich. It was crispy on the outside, and the piping-hot fillings were steaming delicious.
Chicas also offers classic island dishes, such as bistec a la plancha (grilled steak in garlic and onion mojo), roast mojo pork, and their specialty — Chicas Chicken.
Chicas Chicken was my next choice, after Ileana hinted that it was a must-try dish. It is composed of chopped chicken dark meat, and is served with authentic sides of maduros (sweet plantains) and yuca con mojo, served with a special sauce.
“This dish is really made with love, as my husband makes the spice mixture and I created the special sauce,” Ileana said.
Tender chopped chicken, juicy and crispy-textured, dipped in their aioli-like special sauce, was fantastic. The perfect balance of spice, with the sides all pairing up, made me feel like I was eating in Havana or Miami, right in DeLand.
Lastly, I tried Ileana’s homemade flan drizzled with a sweet caramelized sauce; it was creamy, rich, and straight from the heart to my belly.
“We are not a fast-food restaurant, but we encourage guests to come in to relax, and savor the flavors and vibes as if you were in a cafe in Miami,” Ileana said.
Chicas recently closed for a weekend to finish some renovations to better serve the patrons of DeLand, but is regularly open Tuesday-Sunday.
Chicas Cuban Cafe has plenty of options for the Cuban food and coffee enthusiast, while delivering a cozy and relaxed atmosphere. This is a great addition to the DeLand restaurant community.