A little bit of Havana

Story by HAISTEN WILLIS/Photos by JENNI GIRTMAN

Northside foodies have a new option at their fingertips with the opening of Beni’s Cubano.

The vibrant yet cozy new place located at the back of Tin Lizzy’s Cantina in the Avenue at East Cobb came about after the Tex-Mex restaurant owners — Southern Proper Hospitality Group — discovered they had an excess of 1,000 square feet of space. They blasted a new entrance back there to make way for Beni’s, which gives patrons a sense of Havana upon arrival.

The tall, narrow entryway features skinny blue shutters over a yellow paint scheme, above which sits a sign reading “Beni’s Cubano Restaurante.” Inside, pastel-hued vibes continue with pink tiles and lime-green walls. A rusted bicycle dangles from the roof, fronting a curved ceiling hanging over a traditional bar and booth setup. Trumpets and guitars blast salsa music over the restaurant’s speakers, blending in with the aroma of Cuban spices to complete the Latin atmosphere.

“Cuban was an idea that we had envisioned doing for a long time, and the stars lined up for us to do it in East Cobb,” says John Piemonte, one of SPH’s three owners. “We’re relentless when it comes to our restaurants, wanting to perfect the food, the design and the service. Every recipe, every sauce, every marinade is critical, from the way we roast garlic to the ratio of ingredients in key sauces. Nothing happens by accident.”

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In addition to Beni’s Cubano and Tin Lizzy’s, SPH restaurants include Milton’s Cuisine and Cocktails, the Big Ketch and the Blind Pig, among others in North Carolina, South Carolina and Augusta.

“We see all of our restaurants as being experiential, and that certainly includes Beni’s,” Piemonte says. “Our goal is to transport people somewhere, to take them on a short-term escape from reality. When you visit Beni’s Cubano, it feels like you’re in Havana.”

3 off-the-menu items

Seafood Criollo. With sauteed shrimp and mahi mahi, plus Cuban creole sauce with sofrito, tomato and olives, this dish has a cajun taste.

Beni’s Mojito. Made with Havana Club Silver Rum, mint simple syrup, limes and soda water, the Beni’s Mojito is both sweet and tangy at the same time. While not overly minty for a mojito, it packs a punch of flavor initially, followed by a lingering lime aftertaste.

Black beans with bacon and sofrito. Flavored with smoked ham hocks, Beni’s black beans explode with homemade flavor. Brent McGhee, general manager at Beni’s Cubano, says it his experience sampling the beans that convinced him to work at the restaurant.

Beni’s Cubano. The Avenue at East Cobb. 4475 Roswell Road, Marietta. 404-348-4394. benniscubano.com

Insider Tips:

More than half of the menu at Beni’s Cubano is gluten free. Also, for folks with an appetite, dinner can be finished off with house-made bread pudding, the only dessert offered at Beni’s. It features Cuban bread, along with eggs, milk, pecans and golden raisins topped with whipped cream and dulce de leche caramel.

Though only 1 year old, Beni’s Cubano has already spawned a second location. Intowners can visit a food court version of the restaurant in Peachtree Center in downtown Atlanta, located at 231 Peachtree St. 770-212-9076.

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