La Isla Restaurant
We know, a restaurant review after the “huge” fire above Helmer’s sounds insignificant, but we have 100’s of reviews scheduled, so the show must go on.
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Description – Well known Cuban restaurant serving quality ‘authentic’ cooking at low prices. Casual dining. Small dining area. Zagat rated. Entrée price range $15-$21. Sandwiches from $4.50 – $7.00
Services – Cuban cuisine – Sandwich, Salad, Entrée, Breakfast, Sunday Brunch. Take Out, Delivery, Catering, BYOB
Website – www.laislarestaurant.com
Address – 104 Washington St, Hoboken, New Jersey ( NJ ) 07030-4604
Telephone – (201) 659-8197, Fax – (201) 659-8320
La Isla is one of the more popular and consistently crowded restaurants in Hoboken. Even though it’s small, the turnover is fast, and the clientele faithful. What makes it so popular?
It seems as if the general reviews are mixed, but what is it that keeps people coming back?
Well for starters, there isn’t a huge selection of “quick” cuban places in Hoboken. Secondly, if you order things besides the more costly entrées, the value is relatively good. Lastly, it tastes pretty genuine, although not the “best”. Let’s call it a Cuban Diner.
The menu is rather diverse (although many things are fried). We find the steak products rather tough. The chicken dishes are usually better.
One thing you need to be aware about at La Isla is, that if you decide that you’re too impatient to wait for a table, and choose to sit at the counter area, make sure you’re not TALL. The stools are ridiculously close and insanely uncomfortable to sit at. I had to decline that seating arrangement and wait. Those are the breaks when you’re over 6’4″. However, The Mayor of Hoboken fits perfectly.
For this review, we started with a quick appetizer selection of chicken and beef empanadas. The chicken is hands-down better than the beef. The rather pedestrian tasting taco-meat was nothing to write home to Mom about. I’ve had better meat in an El Paso Taco Kit. We also ordered the Papa Rellena, the Cuban-Style Stuffed Potato. This is fun, although it contains the same suspect meat giblets as the empananda. We ate the emapanadas too fast to snap a photo, damnit, but here’s a picture of the crispy potato globule.
The two main dishes we chose were the Croqueta Preparada, the Croquette Sandwich, and the Pollo Asado, which is either a chicken breast or thigh with rice and onions.
The Croquette sandwich was rather tasty.. two ham croquettes with swiss cheese, ham, pickle, and garlic “mojo”. Although hard to differentiate from the other sandwiches, it did have a slightly unique taste.
For the Pollo Asado, we chose the breast over thigh (who wouldn’t?). Pretty standard by our book, but the chicken was tasty and seasoned, and prepared to within specs. The sticky white rice was as perfect as you’d expect.
This is a BYOB place, so feel free to bring your favorites. However, I wonder if they let you bring sodas. Because $1.60 per can of Diet Coke is a ripoff. I needed a six pack of them to quench my thirst (on top of the 6 waters as well!!)
La Isla also has a wide varieties of other sandwiches, appetizers and more sophisticated entrées. Be prepared to spend between $15-21 for the entrées. We don’t think there’s much value in the entrées. Better off sticking to the lower cost items, and save your money for a place like Augustino’s or Three A’s.
Additionally, they have a decent breakfast and Sunday Brunch menu with various eggs, pancakes, french toast, and a smaller selection of their standard menu available.
We haven’t had a chance to sample other items on the menu, such as the desserts or salads, but will be back with an additional update later in the year.
One thing to be aware of, the Habanero Sauce (green) is very spicy. I emptied half the thing on my empanada and lost 17lbs. sweating for the rest of the meal. And I can eat anything. Good stuff, just beware!!!
Overall, it’s a rather reliable place to eat, if not frenetic at times. Service may be spotty, but we had an efficient waitress and were able to enjoy our meal without complaint. They work with a smile, and do a pretty good job. Just have patience, or go at a time where they are not overwhelmed. You probably won’t be disappointed if you aren’t stuck up and high-maintenance.
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