Cuban hats adorn the windows and traditional Cuban cuisine graces the plates at Fort Lee’s newest addition to Main Street: Babalu Cuban Café. Since opening the bistro in December, owners Raul Vicente, Jr, his partner Patricia Matos, and their team of crackerjack cooks conjure up tasty dishes for new customers who are soon becoming regulars.
The café’s name pays homage to the most famous TV couple of the 1950s, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz) with posters from “I Love Lucy,” their famous TV Show adorning the walls.
Azúcar Cuban Cuisine & Cigars’ owner and Executive Chef Nick Vazquez was just a kid when his family moved to the states in 1960 and settled in Hudson. Vasquez attended local schools, but learned he had a passion for cooking while watching his mom create traditional Cuban dishes in the family kitchen. Years later, Vazquez rekindled his passion and in 1995 opened Azúcar, his first restaurant in Edgewater. He closed the business ten years later and opened Azúcar Cuban Cuisine & Cigars in Jersey City, where his mother’s recipes highlight the menu.
Step inside Azúcar and it’s like a step back in time to a 1950s Cuban bistro where above the reception area a huge “Cuba” poster showing a Latina dressed in a 1950s cabaret costume catches your eye. Stroll to the right and you’re in the bar, an inviting, low-lit atmosphere with black tables and chairs upholstered in faux leopard. The room is cozy and cool especially with the large overhead fan that creates wafting breezes below. To the left, there are two dining rooms that seat 120 comfortably.