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Lazaro’s Cuban Cuisine restaurant review, Roswell

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My college dormitory in upstate New York had two large communal kitchens on each floor. It also had the International House, a wing set aside for students to celebrate and share differing cultural heritages. The International House used its communal kitchen to prepare large potluck dinners that attracted students from across campus.

But the magic in those kitchens happened on the weekends, when large groups of students, often hailing from South Florida or Latin American countries, came together for informal cooking sessions. And while the smells of garlic, onions and cumin permeating the hallways were quite different from my home, they made me pine for the Sunday suppers happening at my grandmother’s house a thousand miles away.Jenny-Turknett-Review

Cuban-born Lazaro Tenreiro, owner of Lazaro’s Cuban Cuisine in Roswell, grew up in a South Florida home where the kitchen was the largest room and such family cooking gatherings were the norm. After years of praise for his cooking skills, but with no formal restaurant experience, Tenreiro changed his life’s course and took the plunge to become a restaurant owner.

As much as he enjoyed the expanding dining scene in Roswell, he thought Cuban cuisine was long overdue. Gathering his family and his grandmother’s best recipes, Tenreiro opened Lazaro’s in Roswell last spring in a former home sitting just off Canton Street. The restaurant welcomes you with collections of family portraits mingling with cigar-boxes and Cuban art lining the lime-green walls.

With Tenreiro’s mom and other family members alongside him in the kitchen and his wife out front, Lazaro’s serves up traditional Cuban dishes that have won the hearts of Roswell regulars.

Tenreiro says his favorite part of this new endeavor is the time he spends each Monday handpicking ingredients from the Buford Highway Farmers Market.

Like any new restaurant, Lazaro’s has experienced its share of growing pains. Front-of-the-house missteps forced Tenreiro to entrust the kitchen to family while he trained and managed servers. With service issues resolved, Tenreiro returned to the kitchen to tweak a few dishes that fell below his standards in the interim.

The Cuban sandwich ($8.50 lunch) topped Tenreiro’s list for improvement. He transformed a soft and mushy sandwich into a more appealing specimen with a slick, pressed crackle. The latter version does justice to the Cuban bread flown in from South Florida twice each week. The pork fest tucked inside includes deli-style Black Forest ham and juicy lechon asado (roast pork), meshing with melty Swiss, a touch of mustard and sliced pickles.

The lechon asado needs no improvement.

The lechon asado needs no improvement.

The slow-roasted pork, cooked overnight and marinated in a cumin-spiked mojo sauce, needs no improvement. It comes as a stand-alone entree at dinner ($12) with rice, beans (go for the mixed version made with chorizo) and addictively sweet maduros (fried ripe plantains).

The tart mojo sauce used to marinate the pork also comes with crispy plantain chips as an appetizer ($5). I can’t get enough of the bold-flavored mojo, using the plantains as a neutral vehicle for the sauce, which is prepackaged and sold at the restaurant.

Lazaro’s also sells the mayonnaise-based dip accompanying the empanadas. This secret sauce, which necessitates a confidentiality agreement signed by employees (no joke), has a little kick to it and a hint of coconut. The coconut shines most when paired with the flaky beef empanada ($6 for two), which comes filled with raisin-studded picadillo (ground beef hash).

Lazaro's picadillo

Picadillo with a side of maduros

The raisins disappear when the hearty picadillo is served as an entree ($12.50); instead, the finely crumbled beef takes on a briny character with the addition of olives. Tenreiro says customers requested picadillo both with and without the fruit, so he chose to include the raisins in the stuffing for the house-made empanada pastry dough.

I’d recommend the ropa vieja (shredded beef, $15), a dish this family has down. Talk about the ultimate comfort food. This braised beef brisket, with thinly sliced onions and peppers in a stew-like beef and tomato broth, is perfect for winter days.

My husband’s favorite dish is the palomilla ($13), thin-pounded top sirloin steak marinated in mojo sauce and topped with sauteed onion slices. I think it could use a little tweaking. I’m not fond of the flavor of the beef itself and I suspect hubby was spellbound by the mojo.

Adding a full bar also might benefit the restaurant. Lazaro’s offers a list of wines and imported and domestic beers but a Mojito would be nice. For now, I enjoy a small glass of red wine sangria ($5) with bobbing fruit.

If you’re going for dessert, you’ll want to snag a creamy cafe con leche ($3.25), the perfect accompaniment to the slightly firmer version of flan served at Lazaro’s.

Every neighborhood needs a spot to get a home-cooked meal. At Lazaro’s, you can get one, Cuban-style.

LAZARO’S CUBAN CUISINE
25 Woodstock Road, Roswell, 678-277-9661
2stars5Food: takes on classic Cuban fare
Service: helpful and attentive
Best dishes: lechon asado with mixed rice and maduros, plantains with mojo
Vegetarian selections: salads, but not the best place for vegetarians
Price range: $-$$
Credit cards: all major credit cards
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Look for new hours in the spring.
Children: welcome; crayons and coloring books provided.
Parking: yes, a dedicated lot.
Reservations: yes
Smoking: no
Noise level: low
Patio: yes, a nice spot under a tall magnolia
Takeout: yes

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11 comments Add your comment

Sally B

January 17th, 2013
3:14 pm

Two things I highly recommend at Lazaro’s: The Ropa Vieja beats any other I’ve eaten. His moros (black beans and rice mixed together) changed my mind about this side order. I never order it anywhere else because it’s usually dry, but Lazaro’s has a great consistency.

If you are in a veggie mood, get the spinach and corn empanadas with a side of plantains.

janet

January 17th, 2013
4:00 pm

Laz also makes bolinhos de bacalao (cod fish balls) and they remind me of Grandmother and Mother who were from Portugal. The atmosphere is charming and the food delicious. And you can’t beat the smile from Laz who is in the kitchen. And the best part it is not close to the crush of other restaurants on Canton St. No need for a valet to park your car.

ML

January 17th, 2013
7:19 pm

You can’t beat the Lechon Asado at Lazaro’s. And that mojo sauce is pretty fantastic. Try the spicy aji shrimp as well… wonderful flavor. A great gem in Roswell – have never had a bad meal or service here. Wish the posted “neighborhood delivery” was an actual, viable option – as every time we’ve called, the delivery driver has either been on vacation or out running errands. You either have delivery service, or you don’t – but don’t make excuses to your loyal customers.

Canton St. Crawler

January 18th, 2013
8:09 am

I echo the above posts. The Ropa Vieja brought me to my knees, and I could eat about 6 orders of Empinadas with that sauce……….of course i could eat a Nike with that sauce, and still love it

James

January 18th, 2013
11:01 am

Love this place. Soul-satisfying food, unpretentious, and consistently good.

And there’s parking!

PJ

January 18th, 2013
3:00 pm

I love Lazaro’s – the tree-shaded patio is fantastic & the $5 kid’s menu is a steal (please keep it!!). We love the appetizer that comes with sliced chorizo & manchego along with yummy olives. I agree with Jenny’s husband on the palomilla – the chimichurri is perfectly balanced with a bit of punch from the garlic – I could slather it on everything. I also agree with @Sally B about the moros – yum! And, while the wines by the glass are satisfying, my only wish is for a mojito to go with my dinner. So glad Lazaro’s opened in my neighborhood.

RL

January 19th, 2013
7:41 am

I too value this little Roswell gem. From the Lechon Asado to the well trained & embracing staff, this is a my perfect ‘go-to’ restaurant nearly any day of the week. That being said, I have to concur w/ ML re: and advertised delivery that never really delivers. I’ve made multiple attempts (4) to take advantage of the convenient service offered but the excuse is usually that the drive is ‘off today’ or is ‘running other errands’. I do love this spot so the first few times I elected to take-out but principal keeps jousting with my taste buds…please, either honor the offered convenient delivery service or change the policy…the great food is taunting enough!

cs

January 19th, 2013
8:43 am

being 1/2 of a CUBAN- born Family, I was raised on the BEST FOOD: RICE AND BEANS, PLATANOS, ROPA VIEJA, PALOMILLA, and, of course, FLAN. Lazaro’s exemplifies the best of our Cuban ethnicity. The food, flare, and warmth are the main characters at this very special restaurant.
To know a good Cuban restaurant, bring a “good Cuban” with you, to test it!!! I know one, and he LOVES IT!
The only mistake with this article, is that Lazaro’s should’ve received 6 STARS, instead of 2!
Enjoy!

Ivone

January 20th, 2013
8:25 am

My husband ordered a paella for my birthday and it was FABULOUS! Thank your Lazaro for opening a Cuban restaurant in Roswell.

Lazaro

January 20th, 2013
4:03 pm

Thank you so Much to the AJC for a great review and a BIG THANK YOU, to all you guys that are writing such nice things. I take my food VERY seriously and want you to enjoy it just as much as I enjoy making it… If we have not met, Ask for me next time, I would LOVE to meet you all… Muchas Gracias, Laz

AzCat

January 22nd, 2013
8:58 pm

Wow! Lazaro’s post has been up for over forty eight hours now and no troll has flamed him. There is hope for us, after all. :-)