Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A quick trip to Azucar...

The antique malls on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach are were calling my name last Thursday, so I combined a quick lunchtime trip over there with a stop at Azucar, a new Cuban bakery and cafe that just opened right there on Newport - just off Sunset Cliffs.Cases at Azucar
The first thing I noticed about Azucar is how stylish and modern it is. It makes sense - the chef/owner is from Miami, the epicentre of Cuban-American culture, and one of the style capitals of the world - so I had high hopes that the food would live up to the promise of the atmosphere. The Cafe Cubano I ordered (espresso sweetened as it is made) was perfection, but alas the food didn't quite measure up to my hopes and expectations.

First off, although the display cases are gorgeous, they're filled with small plates holding only a few of each type of pastry - in some cases only one. It didn't make for a very appealing display, and the hard to read handwritten signs on each item didn't help. I ordered a Cubano sandwich for my lunch, and asked for a ginger scone with ginger spread and a "meat pie" to go.
Cafe Cubano at Azucar
The scone (their last one) wound up being the best thing I tried. It's chock full of candied ginger, with a housemade ginger spread (which they also sell separately) on the side. It could be baked a bit darker, but it's worth ordering along with a coffee. I wasn't so fond of the meat pie. The flaky puff pastry was good, but the filling was unappealingly mushy, and was overwhelmingly flavored with green bell pepper. I loved the idea of it (and I dig a good empanada) but this just didn't work for me.
Unmelted Cubano at Azucar
I had really high hopes for the Cubano sandwich. It was $7.50 on the menu, which I thought was a little high, but if it was truly kick-ass, I wouldn't have minded. It took quite a while to arrive, so I was surprised to find that it was cold on the inside. I could have complained, but I chose to focus on eating around the edges, where the bread was crisp. I was also a little disappointed that it seemed to be made with regular old ingredients. Yellow mustard, pickles out of a jar, ordinary ham, and plain sliced deli cheese. Not that it had to be something extraordinary, but a little extra effort would be appreciated at that price - certainly, it should have been heated through. It came with a pile of slightly overdressed salad greens on the side - or you can opt for plantain chips.

A couple of days later, I found myself back in OB with Alex. After some fish tacos at South Beach (more on that to come) we walked the few blocks down to Azucar for Cafe Cubanos and picked up a "mojito" cookie. It sounded great - lime zest and mint in a buttery sugar cookie - but we both agreed that it was a little doughy and overly sweet. Alex wound up taking it to work to unload on his colleagues.

I'd go back again for the coffee but I couldn't help but think - as I sipped my similarly sweet coffee and nibbled my chilly sandwich - that I'd rather be having a vietnamese iced coffee and roast pork bahn mi at K Sandwiches for half the price. The desserts looked good though, and it seems the chef is an accomplished patissier, so maybe the cupcakes or plated pastries are the way to go. If you try one, you'll have to let me know.

4820 Newport Ave
(between Cable St & Sunset Cliffs Blvd)
Ocean Beach
recommended: Cafe Cubano, ginger scone - they also have cupcakes and plated desserts that look very good.


  1. Oh, poo.
    It's funny, though, how close a Cubano sandwich is to a bahn mi. Except for the cheese and cilantro and all those other differences.

  2. hi alice! after i learned about azucar from your tweet, t & i went there and picked up a couple of the pastries and bipassed the savories. we got the coconut flan and some of the caramel coco-nib brownies. we haven't tried the brownies yet, but the flan (photo on fpd) was quite good. a little too sugary for me, but most desserts are! sad to hear the mojito sugar cookie wasn't that great. i was interested in that one as well.

  3. We tried the brownie which I thought was very good. The mojito cookie just seemed like a giant sugar cookie with green dye. It was good too. My friend bought a selection of pastries for her parents. The white chocolate one seemed to be their favorite. The staff is friendly which is a plus. Also the bakery is easy to find.I think we should give Azucar some stars.

    Susan Mournian

  4. Ah OB! My old stomping grounds. I wish I could pop on by to check it out.

  5. I love the way that place looks. Maybe the sweets will improve? I hope so. Now I can't stop thinking about South Beach for tacos.

  6. update: just ate some of the brownie that i mentioned in my last comment. eek. i mean, it wasn't heinous but it really seemed like it was WAY under cooked. i felt like i was eating brownie batter! it was tasty brownie batter - but brownie batter none-the-less.

  7. I would agree about the cubano sandwich and the meat pie, but wonder if the gave you any of the "mojito" garlic dipping sauce? Not crazy about the mojito cookie at all (off balance flavor profile I thought), but really enjoyed the key lime bars. Guava/cream cheese pastry really on the sweet side, but I like that in the morning with strong, black coffee.

  8. This is my favorite place!. The pastries are awesome. Everything taste authenthic. It was like being back in Cuba!