Chef, Food Trucks, and Cuban Sandwiches

The sun crossed the equator nine days ago on its way to the Tropic of Capricorn. Summer turning to fall. The days are shorter now – about equal night and day signaling a change in orientation for me. The outdoor pool closed, temperatures cooler, and rain is on its way. For the past three months I’ve spent more time outdoors than in. For the next nine months it will be the other way around. I’m back in my “Surviving Seattle” mode.

That means more plays, more movies, more reading, more museums and galleries, and more concerts. It means fewer bike rides and some long drives in search of powder snow. We’ll still get out for an occasional ride, as we did yesterday when the lower sun angle caught the beginning of the changing colors.  It’s still beautiful but I know it’s fleeting.

Yesterday’s ride had a purpose. On Saturday night M and I went to a $3 movie at the Crest. The Crest is the last stop before a film goes from public release to DVD. This one was Chef, the Jon Favreau story about Carl Casper a high-end chef who quits his job at an upscale LA restaurant rather than defer to the owner (Dustin Hoffman) who wants him to cook tired old classics for a food critic coming to the restaurant that night.


It’s a great romp as Chef Carl falls from grace, learns the downside of a viral Twitter feed, rehabilitates himself and reconnects with his tech-savvy pre-teen son and drop dead beautiful ex-wife (Sofia Vergara). He returns to Miami, the scene of his initial success, as the “nanny” for his son while his ex-wife does business there. The rehabilitation takes an odd turn when he decides to renovate a dilapidated food truck and specialize in Cubanos, those scrumptious Cuban sandwiches.

Renovated and road worthy, Carl, his line cook, Martin, and Carl’s son, Percy, drive El Jefe, the food truck, across the country to LA with stops in New Orleans and Austin TX. Along the way the crowds go crazy for their Cubanos.



It’s a rollicking, feel-good road trip. I loved it. The stop in New Orleans was on Frenchmen Street where M and I listened to street music two weeks ago, and the stop in Austin was in front of a club on 6th Street, where I heard bluesman Albert Collins several years ago. When they arrive in LA they set up in small parking lot on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, where we M and I ate Korean food from another food truck a couple years ago. It was a fun trip down memory lane for us.

But, I digress – back to our bike ride… The day after the movie we rode to Woodinville to try a restaurant we had ridden by literally hundreds of times. I always said we should stop for lunch, but when we’re riding it never seems like a good idea to stop for a big meal. This time it was the destination.

The Twisted Cuban Café and Bar in Woodinville is away from the main business district, but not far from “winery row,” that hot strip of wineries that has become hugely popular in recent years. It’s still full of warehouses and storage units, but it has its own charm.

The Twisted is open from 11am to 9pm. On Sunday it was totally empty when we arrived at 3pm. I’m always uncomfortable when a restaurant is empty. It’s not a good sign and I usually turn away, but it was the reason we had come so we went on in.

Twisted CafeThe waiter was a friendly, young guy from the Dominican Republic who was very professional. On his recommendation we opted for the Twisted Cuban Sandwich with sides of yuca fries and garbanzo bean salad instead of the Monster Cuban. I washed mine down with a dark amber draft and M chose lemonade because we were on our bikes. Everything was sensational and we each took half a sandwich home with us.

We will definitely go back. I can’t wait to try the pounded Cuban steak. I haven’t had one since the last time I ate at Lila’s on SW 8th Street in Miami. I doubt that the Twisted will cover its steak with a mountain of shoestring potatoes like Lila does, but man those yuca fries would definitely be an acceptable alternative.

I was so impressed with the Twisted Cuban Café and Bar that I emailed Providence Cicero, the food writer for the Seattle Times. I’ve been complaining to her for a couple of years about the lack of good eats in our part of town and wanted to share this find with her. She wrote back saying that she, like us, had passed Twisted a number of times but never tried it. It’s on her list now.

Bon appetit, Providence…


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