There is virtually nothing to this small storefront space in northwest Denver, which is as it should be. A patio out front, soft yellow walls, a couple of framed prints of things Cubano, a counter, a few tables, a coffee machine, a small kitchen tucked away in a closet in the back of the room, a cash register. The plates are paper, the utensils plastic, the sandwiches that make up the bulk of Buchi's menu delivered wrapped in wax paper -- quickly and with little fuss. As at a proper barbecue restaurant or a good hamburger stand, there is nothing to distract you from food that's gorgeous enough on its own, food that stands as both goal and ultimate reward. All is quick, all is casual, all is almost transient in its impermanence (with little left behind on the finished tables but empty bottles of Limonata and Materva and the crushed papers of sandwiches like cast-off snakeskins). In fact, the two most solid things at Buchi are the plain white cups in which is served what I swear has got to be the best coffee ever, and owner Emmett Barr standing in the back, between the kitchen and the register, overseeing his tiny piece of transplant paradise.
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If you haven't been to Buchi Cafe Cubano, go now. If you've already been to Buchi, go again. Because this is about as good as it gets for Cuban food in Denver -- and it's about to get a lot better.
When I ate my review meals at Buchi, Emmett Barr, who'd absorbed the authentic flavor of Cuban food while growing up in the Keys, was only doing breakfast and lunch, cooking little more than sandwiches and a killer Sunday brunch, while always serving the greatest cup of coffee in the nation. But when I checked in with Barr late last week, he'd gotten a liquor license. By the time this issue hits the stands (or the web), he'll have a bar set up and hours that extend into the evening for those looking to get their Cuban fix a little later in the day. But that's all just details. The important thing is that you go to Buchi -- now, and often. It's an amazing little restaurant.
So, for that matter, is Cuba Cuba, the restaurant that first brought the taste of Cuba to the Golden Triangle eight years ago, and continues to pack in the crowds -- as I discovered when I showed up early one week night last week.