By Emily G. Peters
For many of us West Coasters, exposure to Cuban cuisine is limited at best. Particularly in the San Gabriel Valley, only a handful of restaurants and cafes are serving up old school arroz con pollo, leaving plenty of Cubans and Cuban-food fans strapped for options —something The Lost Cuban Kitchen is looking to change.
“The name ‘The Lost Cuban Kitchen’ stems from the original founder’s (Chef Jess Streit) ‘lost’ feeling as he moved from his Miami roots. He sought a place where he could experience the love, warmth, authenticity and sense of community his Cuban family and network brought him,” says Kirby Ryan, COO of SWS Venture Capital and part of The Lost Cuban Kitchen’s leadership team. “Drawing from the recipes of Streit’s abuela [grandmother] who braved the boat ride from Cuba to Miami, our menu and brand were created, aimed at creating community and bringing a sense of playfulness and comfort for all those who might feel lost.”
This sense of comfort is tied to accessibility. Instead of dining in, The Lost Cuban Kitchen’s “virtual restaurant” structure offers all their food for delivery or take-out. As part of the Kitchen United group in Pasadena, the cafe shares commercial kitchen space with other restaurants rather than renting out a stand-alone brick-and-mortar spot. Here, folks can drop by to pick up their order or use delivery services like Uber Eats, GrubHub, Postmates, etc. to bring it right to their doorstep.
“Our target audience is 18-35 year-olds, tech-savvy individuals and young families—essentially all those who have a busy schedule but still want a high-quality meal to enjoy with friends and family,” says Ryan. “The huge shift towards delivery and mobile food is clearly one we’re excited about, and consolidation among the delivery providers will make it easier for both restaurants and customers to navigate the myriad of options.”
Although it may disappoint some not to be able to relax in the kitchen for their meal, it helps that the food is actually great. This is the kind of stuff you order when you’re craving something comforting and flavorful: Cubanos crammed with roast pork and ham, flaky empanadas and tender ropa vieja (braised prime beef). And yes, while the enduring wound to vegetarians is that all they ever get is sides, with options like hearty black beans, sweet-savory platanos and queso pastelitos there’s no way you’re leaving hungry.
“Pasadena has been receptive, with a lot of foodies and hardcore Cuban cuisine fans thrilled to finally have an option to access their favorite food,” says Ryan. “When the founder, Jess, first visited Pasadena with the thought of launching in mind, he took a shared ride and told the person next to him he would be launching a Cuban restaurant. She was thrilled to try new food, rather than ‘just another salad place’ and asked what exactly Cuban cuisine consisted of. From that early moment, it was clear Pasadena was an open-minded community where we could delight an entire region of people. From our early results, we’re thrilled to say this was the right call!”
The Lost Cuban Kitchen is located at Kitchen United, 55 S. Madison Ave. in Pasadena. For more information, contact The Lost Cuban Kitchen at lostcuban.com | firstname.lastname@example.org and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @thelostcubankitchen.