Summertime in the city is an exciting time–outdoor concerts, activities that don’t require multiple layers of clothing and the overall chill that falls over notoriously hardscrabble Philly is something that puts a smile on the face of even the most jaded city dweller. But there’s almost nothing that compares to the electricity the summertime dining scene brings to the city and the almost magical way warmer weather ushers in a whole different way of eating. Al fresco dining, barbecues, the reappearance of summer produce–they all signal the beginning of the season and, taking their cues accordingly, chefs plan menus that eager diners gladly endure the winter months to finally enjoy.
Old City restaurant Cuba Libre is putting a new twist on seasonal dining with its all-you-can-eat pig roast beginning on Monday, June 8th and continuing every Monday all summer long. Die-hard purists will be happy to learn this is an authentic experience in the truest sense of the word; an outdoor caja china (or Chinese roasting box) will house a splayed, 70 – 80-pound pig while it slowly roasts for approximately 10 hours until it becomes a porcine delight of crispy, crackling skin and fork-tender meat. (The Philadelphia Parking Authority will be pleased to learn that the roasting box has its own approved parking permit.) After its long journey to deliciousness, the pig will then be brought inside and presented at a carving station in the main dining room where guests will be served unlimited portions–while it lasts. White rice, black beans, house salad and grilled bread (served with a mango butter that could be eaten by the metric ton) will be served alongside the pork for an unbelievably inexpensive $25. And what’s a Latin pig roast without libations? The Monday special gets even better with a pairing of sangria pitchers, including the seasonal grilled peach sangria, at $5 off all night. The most hawk-eyed sleuth would be hard-pressed to find a better dining deal in the city.
Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot knows just how magical his seasonal offering is. “In Cuba, it is common to use the word ‘china’ to refer to anything that is mystical, exotic or unusual. This roasting box is exactly that–mystical. Every Monday in front of the restaurant, we’ll slow roast the pig inside the box. After eight hours, the skin will ‘magically’ turn a crisp, golden brown color with succulent, fall-off-the-bone roasted pork ready to be enjoyed.”
The $25 all-you-can eat dinner (half-price for diners under age 12) will begin with a salad for the table, served family-style. Guests are invited to visit the carving station as many times as they wish for the cumin- and oregano-spiced pork marinated in a bath of orange and lime juices, garlic, olive oil and salt. Traditional black beans and rice will be served with grilled artisanal bread brushed with savory pork jus. Housemade sour orange mojo and jalapeño chimichurri give the pork a flavorful lift and elevates it to somewhere just beyond amazing.
“We’re so excited to introduce this all-you-can-eat special to Philadelphia, just in time for summer dining and outdoor fun,” says Pernot. “Guests will be intrigued by the unusual caja china at first, and soon enough, we’ll be seeing them again and again for dinner, all summer long!”
The veteran chef is right–the promise of a summer-long pig roast is enough to encourage any foodie to beat a path to one of the city’s favorite Latin eateries.
For more information, visit Cuba Libre’s website at www.cubalibrerestaurant.com or follow Cuba Libre on Twitter (@CubaLibrePHL) and Instagram (@CubaLibreRestaurant) and ‘like’ them on Facebook.