After a career in investment banking, Cuban-American entrepreneur Lynna Martinez finally realized her dream of launching a Cuban food truck, Qba, five years ago in New York City and northern New Jersey. Recently, Martinez switched coasts and moved to the Bay Area, bringing her traditional and contemporary Cuban recipes with her.
Instead of the food truck, however, Qba is now a brick-and-mortar fast-casual restaurant in San Mateo. Hearty meats such as léchon (Cuban-style pulled pork) and grilled steak spritzed with garlic and lime are the foundation of many Cuban meals, and Qba offers them as wraps; tacos; salads; or full meals complemented by rice, black beans and various salsas. Another mainstay of Cuban dining is the pressed sandwich, much like panini. At Qba, the sandwiches include the signature Cubano with ham, melted Swiss cheese and pickles in mojo sauce. Martinez brings the Peninsula and Havana together with the San Mateo Cuban sandwich, swapping grilled chicken and avocado for the ham and pork in the Cubano sandwich. Besides the seven sandwich options, diners also can
opt for three kinds of sliders: barbecue pulled pork or chicken; the California slider with pork, turkey, feta cheese, basil and jalapeño; or a Cuban chorizo version. Don’t forget sweet plantains as a side dish or dessert. For now, Qba is only open for lunch, but dinner service is expected to start up soon.
3799 S. El Camino Real, San Mateo; (973) 687-2000. cubankitchen-sm.com
Staying on the same street in the same town, and even with a somewhat similar name, Qube Bar and Grill is now open. The restaurant serves both American comfort food and Asian-influenced, contemporary takes on diner classics, much like the space’s former tenant, Paul’s Diner. Start with the corned beef hash, eggs Benedict or pancakes in the morning before delving into the more eclectic lunch and dinner choices. Qube Bar and Grill’s menu covers much of the globe, with selections ranging from Szechuan-spiced fried calamari and beef kebabs with rice, to Indian butter chicken and tandoori burgers, to chicken schnitzel. The homey atmosphere is little changed from the previous ownership. The restaurant still looks like a 1950s coffee shop with black-and-white tiles, stone walls, and counter seating and big booths for groups.
4000 S El Camino Real, San Mateo; (650) 212-2643
The closure of Woodside’s Station One in 2013 saddened many Peninsula restaurant-goers, but diners can rejoice at the news that husband-and-wife team Kristi Borrone and Zu Tarazi are back with Kristi Marie’s in downtown Redwood City. Unlike the more upscale environment and prix fixe menus of Station One, Kristi Marie’s is geared toward breakfast, coffee breaks and lunch — and doesn’t include any inside seating. Pastries such as brioche buns and cinnamon rolls are baked upstairs and the streamlined menu features a breakfast egg sandwich, granola, a handful of salads. The restaurant also has a few rotating lunch specials such as a hamburger, chilled corn soup or a sausage sandwich on a brioche bun. With the lack of seating, everything is geared for enjoying at two outside tables or to go.
318 Arguello St., Redwood City; (650) 369-4351