There’s a new-ish Cuban restaurant in town, and although folks are raving about their dinner menu and late-night take-out, they do a pretty delightful breakfast. When I was a college student in Boulder, CO we had a lovely little Cuban breakfast spot open up next to one of my favorite bookstores. I’d go and get a Cafe Cubano and a flaky guava pastry and catch up on the paper or some last minute reading for my afternoon class. So walking into two-month old Cana early on a random Wednesday morning brought back some nice memories.
Cana is the kind of neighborhood spot that I think people from all over the East Bay will drive to. They have a small but sweet outdoor patio that, while right on Lakeside, has an enclosed comfortable feel and there are a few tables inside the small restaurant which are generally free earlier in the morning hours (not so at night). I’ve always loved Cuban coffees, so to have a spot that does them with Blue Bottle beans within walking distance of my apartment is a happy find, indeed. On Cana’s menu, you’ll notice the usual suspects: Cafe Con Leche, Cafe Cubano and the Cortadito. The Cafe Con Leche is a slightly sweetened Cuban coffee — people often use sweetened condensed milk but at Cana they prefer to use sugar instead as it makes for a smoother consistency. The Cubano is more for the purist: deep, dark Blue Bottle espresso slightly sweetened with sugar. Then the Cortadito adds on to that a little milk and foam. They also do a “pour-over” slow drip as well as typical espresso drinks (americanos and lattes).
Once you’ve decided on coffee, it’s time to think about breakfast. Luckily, they open early at 7 a.m. and because of that, have developed quite a commuter following. In fact, so much so that they’ve created a “Commuter Special: For $3, you get a slice of housemade bread (banana, lemon or pumpkin) and a Cafe Con Leche. But I think the real reason to stroll in during the morning hours is for the Cuban Toast (best $2 I’ve spent in a long, long time) and the Soft Scrambled Egg and Ham Empanada.
Cuban toast at Cana
The Cuban Toast consists of housemade bread dipped in egg, cinnamon, and a vanilla batter served with a mango coulis. Think about the most magical french toast you’ve had and multiply that experience by two. The Cuban Toast is both light and satisfying at the same time, lightly spiced and subtly sweet. The empanadas are all housemade and they do two flavors, a Vegetarian version with mixed mushrooms and a Ham, Egg, and Cheese.
Empanadas at Cana
I often find breakfast empanadas to be overwhelming: they’re usually too big and, because of that, the filling isn’t always uniformly warm. I’ve actually stopped ordering them altogether, but for the sake of research I tried Cana’s and I’ll be back for more. Their secret, I think, is not using too much filling. They’re crispy on the outside and perfectly flavorful on the inside. I could see how living just a few blocks closer could become dangerous. At the end of the day, I’m thrilled that Cana’s in my ‘hood and will be back for a Cafe Cubano and to try that infamous Pastel de Guataba (guava pastry) that they happened to be out of on the day of my visit. So many new Cuban treats, so little time.
Hours: Breakfast: Mon.-Fri: 7 a.m.- 10 a.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-10 a.m. Lunch: Mon.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner: Mon.-Sat.: 4 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Late Night: Fri.-Sat.: 8:30 p.m.-11 p.m.