Midday on the deck of Tony Cuban in Freeport: Water view, soft breezes, lively food and gracious service. If only the promise shown that weekday afternoon carried through to weekend dinner.
Given the resume of chef-owner Frank Minier, expectations run high. Minier and his wife, Elizabeth, owned the former Laguna Grille in Woodbury and currently have the Massapequa Italian restaurant Mercato Kitchen & Cocktails. Elements of both menus inform Tony Cuban's.
It's a place both good-looking and popular, with a sleek, well-windowed interior and a sprawling deck complete with tiki bar. Indoors or out, reservations aren't accepted for parties of fewer than six. Smartest time to go is when one of the non-prime-time prix-fixe bargains is in effect.
A $15.15 lunch, with beverage included, begins with batter-fried eggplant "frittes" (fries), crisp and appealing. Appetizing, too, are mussels in a piquant roasted garlic-saffron-sherry-tomato broth. An entree-sized roasted vegetable avocado salad is bright and virtuous. Best, though, is the innovative Italian-Cuban sandwich, a classic Cubano punched up with prosciutto, Genoa salami and pesto mayonnaise.
On a bustling weekend evening, dinner begins well enough, with a meltingly good pulled pork quesadilla, crisp, spicy Havana chicken egg rolls and creamy lobster mac and cheese. But a BBQ chicken pineapple flatbread is served stone-cold. Cold, as well, is a thin grill-pressed ropa vieja sandwich with hardly any meat. When a server is queried, she calls over a manager, who says such sandwiches are supposed to be thin. A "Cajun Havanero" burger, ordered rare, is cooked to grayness. On request, it's replaced with a properly pink and juicy one, but its caramelized onion topping is way too sweet. A salmon avocado burger isn't bad; just boring. But a thick, beautifully plated pork chop stuffed with prosciutto, topped with mango pineapple salsa is overdone to near-wood.
Along with decent tres leches cake and brandy bread pudding comes the announcement that dessert is on the house. A check is brought and plates swiftly cleared as a Latin band gets ready to play on the deck. Clearly, the table is needed. So, too, is more TLC at this restaurant rife with potential.