Food News

Cubanitas Kitchen to open a new Glendale restaurant

Guests will still be able to enjoy Cubanitas Kitchen's signature pressed Cuban sandwiches at the new location in Glendale.
Guests will still be able to enjoy Cubanitas Kitchen's signature pressed Cuban sandwiches at the new location in Glendale. Mike Madriaga
After less than one year of operating inside a Phoenix gas station, Cubanitas Kitchen is heading to a new home in Glendale.

The restaurant serves traditional Cuban dishes, like ropa vieja and pressed sandwiches, alongside Mexican-Cuban fusion items all made by co-owner and chef Lennis Montero who learned to cook in her home country of Cuba.

The business started as a food truck before finding a home within a 76 gas station at the southwest corner of 30th and Washington streets. While Cubanitas Kitchen experienced success selling from their food truck in other Valley areas, Renteria recalls having lackluster sales at their brick-and-mortar shop, which opened in September 2022.

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The Cubanitas food truck often parked outside the tiny gas station restaurant.
Mike Madriaga
So now, Cubanitas Kitchen is moving once more, with a new restaurant on Olive and 51st avenues set to open in May. 

Co-owners Montero, Angel Renteria and Keeon Pullen are currently putting the finishing touches on the new space, and documenting the process on the Cubanitas Kitchen Instagram page. The new restaurant will include a bigger menu with new items including Cuban espresso. They plan to add a bar at a later date, aiming to serve alcoholic drinks by the end of the year.

To help expedite construction, the Cubanitas Kitchen food truck will operate less frequently than normal. After the grand opening, the co-owners plan to use the food truck for private rentals and events.

Prior to finding a permanent home on Washington Street, the food truck parked at a different 76 gas station in Glendale, where it built up a devoted following. Now, the new address will take Cubanitas Kitchen back to its roots in the West Valley and to the same cross streets where it first found a taste of success.

Renteria says the community response has been great. He mentions longtime patrons showing up to the new storefront while it’s still in the middle of construction, eager to purchase some food.

“We’re back home,” he says.

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It took Lennis Montero more than two years to reach Phoenix. She's now sharing a taste of home.
Mike Madriaga

Finding Community

Before settling in Arizona, Montero lived and worked in Cuba. After becoming disenchanted with how businesses were being treated, she began an arduous journey to the United States. After crossing 12 countries over two years, she arrived in the U.S. and was granted asylum in December 2018.

Along the way, she met her fiancé, co-owner Angel Renteria. In July 2022, they decided to open a food truck with Pullen. Just a few months later, they opened the first brick-and-mortar, hoping to build off their success. But the location wasn't quite right, the owners say.

It wasn't for a lack of foot traffic, but partially due to what Renteria described as customer preferences. The restaurant was located in a majority-Mexican neighborhood, and many patrons were unfamiliar with Cuban food, he says.

"I would take people's orders, and they got turned off because of not knowing [what certain dishes were]," he explains.

Hoping to entice newcomers with more familiar fare, Renteria suggested adding some Mexican-Cuban fusion items to the menu. Tacos and burritos helped attract new business, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to turn a profit.

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Co-owner and chef Lennis Montero manning the grill at their previous location in Phoenix.
Mike Madriaga

Expanding the Menu

Another obstacle the business owners faced at the original restaurant was the lack of an oven. While the co-owners were excited to have a permanent home, no oven made it challenging to execute new items.

“Everything that we cooked, we had to do on the grill,” Renteria says.

The Glendale location will feature an oven, allowing Chef Montero to let her culinary creativity shine. They anticipate adding more traditional Cuban dishes to the menu, like marinated pork, something she frequently makes at home. The pork is slow-cooked for eight hours, resulting in tender, juicy meat that falls off the bone.

Another dish Renteria and Montero hope to add is yuca. Typically served as a side dish, Montero starts by cooking the yuca in oil until tender, then serves it with a mojo sauce consisting of oil, fresh garlic and lime.

“It’s essentially like a big baked potato,” Renteria says.

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Ropa vieja served with congri, or Cuban black beans and rice, is a popular dish in Cuba.
Mike Madriaga
Also in the works is a rotating weekly special, which the co-owners hope will not only entice guests with new offerings but mirror how Montero experienced dining in her home country.

“In Cuba, they do [specials] mainly because of the availability of the animal,” Renteria explains. “So when you do get a pig or another animal, it’s an exciting feeling.”

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Cubanitas Kitchen has no plans to remove its Cuban tacos from the menu.
Cubanitas Kitchen
All of the dishes from the original restaurant will be available, including the fusion dishes Renteria created to attract new business. Even though Cubanitas Kitchen saw more guests of Cuban descent when parked in Glendale, the tacos and burritos still received positive feedback, he says.

And after seeing how these items provided a gateway into the world of Cuban cuisine for the uninitiated, it’s not something the co-owners plan to remove anytime soon.

“My belief is that once people see that our tacos and burritos are good, they can’t wait to try food that’s [our] forte,” Renteria says.

Cubanitas Kitchen

Opening Soon: 5025 W. Olive Ave., Glendale
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Cassie Brucci is a freelance writer covering food, beverage, and culture. She's lived in the Valley off and on since she was 4 years old and has never met a sandwich she didn't like.
Contact: Cassie Brucci

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