Thomas J. Story
La Taza de Café. Though too small, the Cubanos ($8.50) are excellent. The all-tapas menu is mostly Cuban but draws from other Latin American countries and Spain. Live music nightly gets patrons dancing. Closed Mon-Tue. 5761 Thornhill Dr.; www.latazadecafe.com or 510/339-7400.
Cafe lo Cubano. At this inviting new Cuban-style coffee bar, three different pressed Cuban sandwiches ($7) by chef Johnny Alamida take welcome liberties with the classic recipe. Try the Havana chicken with sweet plantains. 3401 California St.; www.cafelocubano.com or 415/371-9944.
Habana. A new addition to the menu, the Cubanos ($9.95), served only at the bar, are a perfect accompaniment to late-night mojitos. The secret ingredient? Pork marinated for 24 hours with cumin and other spices. 2080 Van Ness Ave.; www.habana1948.com or 415/441-2822.
Tamal. This new pan-Latin restaurant is SoMa's best-kept secret, featuring organic ingredients like porcini mushrooms, saffron, and baby mizuna greens. The Cubano ($8) is equally sophisticated, with serrano ham, aged Swiss cheese, and saffron aioli. Closed Sun. 1599 Howard St.; 415/864-2446.
Habana Cuba. Don't let the humble decor and low prices fool you: The food is excellent and authentic. The traditional Cubanos ($9) are big and juicy and come with grilled plantains and salad. Closed Mon. 238 Race St.; www.998cuba.com or 408/998-2822.