Place: La Isla
Neighborhood: Hoboken, 104 Washington St.
The scoop: This popular Cuban restaurant is located on Hoboken’s busy Washington Street. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and you may walk right past it. I never gave La Isla a second glance the first year I lived in Hoboken, but ever since I tried it two years ago, it’s been one of my favorite restaurants in town. It is very well-known and highly rated on Zagat and Yelp, and has been featured on the Food Network. Since I have thoroughly enjoyed every dinner I’ve had here, I was very excited to try their famous brunch, which is served on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We arrived at 2 p.m. and only had to wait about five minutes for a table. The inside of the restaurant resembles a diner and is quite tiny. The walls are painted green and have different pictures of Cuba, famous patrons, and news clippings. You can sit at the bar or at the tables along the wall inside, or outside underneath their relatively new bright orange awning. We were seated outside. The service was very quick, and our food arrived in less than 10 minutes.
Bottoms up: La Isla is a BYOB restaurant, so feel free to bring whatever alcoholic drinks you please. They offer a nice selection of coffees and teas, as well as batidos, or shakes. I got the iced Cuban latte, and my boyfriend got the platano (banana) batido. Both drinks arrived in plastic to-go cups, which was great in case we were still sipping on them after we finished our meals. The latte was refreshing and a nice pick-me-up. It came with prepared with milk and needed just a little touch of sweetness, so I added two packets of natural sugar to it. The shake had a strong banana flavor, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It was the perfect drink on a hot summer day.
Chew on this:
La Papa $8 / Our own stuffed potato topped with crispy bacon, two fried eggs, melted Swiss cheese, salsa ranchera, and field greens
This caught my attention because it was unlike anything I had ever seen on a menu, and it was very different from what I usually order at brunch (seriously, a girl can only eat so many variations of egg whites and veggies). Given that every meal I’ve ever had here was spectacular, I had high expectations for this dish. When it came out, I was seriously confused by what was on top of the egg. It took me a good minute to realize that what I thought was some variation of a crispy tortilla was actually the cheese! The “melted Swiss cheese” was more like a hard, tough plastic. It looked disgusting and was inedible. I put it to the side and continued with the rest of my dish. Underneath the “cheese” was a measly piece of undercooked bacon. The two fried eggs were served on top of half of a papa rellena, which is a potato ball stuffed with ground meat. The potato itself was soft and fluffy, and the meat had a nice flavor. It was my favorite part of the meal. The eggs were just okay. The field greens on the side had a nice sweet balsamic dressing on them. Overall, I was disappointed with my dish and was really expecting more.
Omar’s stuffed French toast $10 / Pullman-style egg bread filled with strawberry/guava cream cheese, dipped in cinnamon batter and coated with corn flakes and almonds
This is the dish that makes La Isla’s brunch famous. It was featured on an episode of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay”, and chef Omar Giner won! I knew before we arrived that this was what I was ordering. Two huge pieces of French toast were put in front of me, and it confirmed right away that I made the right choice. There was no syrup on the dish and none was offered, but the top piece of French toast was drizzled with a sweet caramel. The outside appeared to be a little overcooked, and I couldn’t tell if this was intentional or not. The inside was a little dry, but the caramel and cream cheese helped with that. The cream cheese was a sweet guava with bits of strawberries in it, and was sweet, but not too sweet. I was full after the first piece, but gladly ate the second. I thought it was phenomenal and would highly recommend this French toast.
The final bite: The French toast was a total hit, and the la papa was a total miss. I know that La Isla can do better and I would still recommend their brunch, but just steer clear of the la papa. Their menu has plenty to offer, so there are many other things to try.
Reviewed by: Jen