Hudson County is home to a few of the most diverse cities in the country. Main streets throughout the area are populated with local restaurants featuring global cuisine. Hoboken is home to not one but two locations of the La Isla restaurant, known for its vibrant and authentic Cuban menu. Keep reading to learn more about the history and menu at both the downtown and uptown locations.
^ La Isla Restaurant Downtown
Havana Meets Miami – in Hoboken!
La Isla has two locations in Hoboken and local residents have rallied around both locations, creating a following throughout New Jersey. The original La Isla Restaurant opened in 1970 in bustling downtown Hoboken at 104 Washington Street. The current ownership took over in 1996 and kept the classic, small, diner-style restaurant with counter seating and cafe tables, which were common in what was then the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. The decor highlights the eclectic and colorful vibe of the Cuban culture. Lively music is played in the background, adding to the energy of the restaurant.
La Isla was established in 1970 and has been owned and operated since 1996 by a traditional Cuban family who has lived in Hoboken for three generations. The family is committed to serving traditional, authentic Cuban food made from the freshest and most genuine ingredients, and also expanding the cuisine by using ingredients and culinary influences from throughout the Caribbean, Spain, and other Latin American countries.
La Isla Restaurant Downtown
The uptown restaurant, located at 25 12th Street, opened in 2015 in the Maxwell House neighborhood near the Northern Hoboken waterfront. This location is substantially bigger with counter seating and cafe tables that capture the character of the original restaurant while bringing it into the modern age. The bar features the latest craft beers on tap, a large wines-by-the-glass selection, and premium-only spirits highlighted by Bacardi Mojitos in a variety of flavors. The Spanish tile and dark wood compliment the paintings by popular Miami artist Humberto Benitez, which hang on the walls.
^ La Isla Restaurant Uptown
New Menu Item Comes to La Isla
The newest item added to the menu at La Isla is authentic Cuban Tamales, which differ from the more common Mexican tamale.
“When most Americans think of Tamales, they think Mexico. While those can certainly be delicious, Tamales are also a staple of Cuban cuisine and very different,” one of the partners, Armando Luis told Hoboken Girl. “The Mexican version is made with dried corn flour, typical ingredients and spices added in the assembly process and steam cooked. Our version is made with fresh ground corn, seasoned with classic Cuban ingredients, including Sofrito, and assembled cold in semi-liquid form and then cooked bain-marie to a firm consistency.”
^ Traditional Cuban Corn Tamal
Both processes are complicated and labor-intensive, and almost never done in-house.
“The process of making tamales is especially challenging for the Cuban version, which is why it’s been off our menu for years. Until now. We have been experimenting for months and have made the commitment to a 100% traditional and in-house process. We think the result speaks for itself and are confident that our customers will agree,” Armando said.
^ Pez Espada en Escabeche
Historic Hoboken Family Creates a Legacy
“The best part about running any restaurant are the happy customers, as we aim to set a high standard for every part of our operation while expanding the reach of Cuban culture and cuisine,” Armando told Hoboken Girl. “What sets us apart is our authentic Cuban food as well as the creative nuevo Latin inspired cuisine.”
A few customer favorites include churrasco con chimichurri (marinated grilled skirt steak with an Argentinian style steak sauce), pollo asado (marinated roasted chicken), ropa vieja (shredded flank steak), cuban sandwich, empanadas, and mojitos at the uptown location.
^ Ropa Vieja
^ Cuban Sandwich
When you step into the restaurant, you notice the sign “Asi Viene el Sandwich!” above the sandwich counter. Customers often ask for the backstory.
“It’s a quote from Manny in the movie Scarface. When a customer complained to Manny, who was still working in a restaurant at the time, that there wasn’t enough meat in the Cuban sandwich, Manny had had enough, quit on the spot, and left for a life of crime with Tony Montana,” Armando explained. “It translates to ‘that’s the way the sandwich comes”, and while there’s more than enough meat in our sandwich, and hopefully no one is quitting for a life of crime, it will always be a genuine Cuban Sandwich!”
Happy Hour Specials
La Isla celebrates with Happy Hour Tuesday through Thursday from 11AM to 6PM with half-priced mojitos, beer, wine-by-the-glass, and specialty cocktails. Happy Hour also includes three-hour parking in the adjacent Independence Garage located at 2 12th Street. Customers can pick up a parking voucher from La Isla to present to the parking attendant upon departure.
The uptown La Isla restaurant is located at 25 12th Street in Hoboken. You can CLICK HERE or call 201-659-6090 with questions regarding the menu or make a reservation. You can reach the downtown location by calling 201-659-8197.
The restaurant is located at 104 Washington Street in Hoboken. Follow @laislahoboken for menu updates and more via Instagram.