When Tropicalata Cuban Café opened on the ground floor of Long Beach’s historic Lafayette Hotel, it inherited a space that had for years housed nothing but short-lived coffee shops. But Tropicalata, with its menu of Cuban classics, has finally filled some of the neighborhood’s hungry void.
You can wake up with a commendable cup of cafe con leche or maybe a creamy mamey smoothie. Come lunch and dinner, there are thick medianoche sandwiches filled with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, onions, pickles and mustard and sizable plates of shredded ropa vieja beef. But Tropicalata didn’t stop there. The café is now expanding its menu, forging a still-nascent partnership with La Puma Rosa, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Watts.
La Puma Rosa has become a kind of restaurant in residency, a semi-permanent pop-up that exists here on Fridays and Saturdays without the fanfare of a public relations team or even any acknowledgement from what’s left of the local media. For now, the pairing is a work in progress, resulting in a limited menu of puerco asado (roasted pork), pollo fricase (sautéed, bone-in chicken), pasteles (essentially Puerto Rican tamales) and a few other items.
When it’s at its best, the Tropicalata and La Puma Rosa combo is one of the top options in a neighborhood that lacked any kind of Caribbean flavor. Suddenly, the East Village Arts District looks a lot more like Miami than even a location scout for CSI or Dexter could have imagined.