Imagine how crowded this place will be when Fidel Castro actually dies and every reporter in town goes to this vibrant Cuban cocina for a local interview with flavor. The eatery is always crowded, as it was on a recent Saturday night. But the meal was largely worth the 20-minute wait. While the croquetas as a starter tasted disappointingly like hush puppies à la Red Lobster, the pescado en salsa verde —an entrée featuring red snapper—was melt-in-your-mouth tasty. And the picadillo , a Cuban beef hash sautéed in olive oil and sherry wine sofrito, was just-so spicy. If you happen on Pambiche some winter night, try the ajiaco —a warming kitchen-sink dish that includes tropical roots, vegetables and corn dumplings with Creole-seasoned pork and beef. And, in the interest of quick seating: ¡Viva Fidel! (HS)

Signature dish: There's a long list of platos muy auténticos that run from pork to jumbo gulf prawns.

Standouts: Don't forget the dessert menu—and not just for the flan. The coconut syrup- and caramel peanut-laden chocolate cake is a choco-fanatic's dream.

Regrets: Slow service from a server who wasn't exactly simpática.