Friday, July 13, 2012

"Get your butt over here!"

Vivian, chef and owner of Qubano
"Get your butt over here! I need help."

Vivian Reynaldo, the chef and owner of an Isla landmark - Qubano Restaurant - chuckles while recounting her first weeks in the restaurant business five years ago.  She didn't have a clue how to cook pork - one of the main meat ingredients in Cuban foods.  Vivian paid the airfare for a Miami friend to come to Isla, to teach her. 

She laughs: "I'm Jewish.  How would I know how to cook pork?" 

Born in Cuba to a Romanian mother, and a Hungarian father she left her birthplace in early 1961 - sent to the safety of her Aunt Fritzi's home in Brooklyn New York. 

This was the year that Vivian discovered snow, the biggest snow storm of the century - 100 inches!  Later, after the unsuccessful attempt by United States backed Cuban exiles to overthrow the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Vivian's entire family fled to Brooklyn. 

 Vivian's first excursion to Isla Mujeres was in 1970, with her husband, when getting here was an adventure on its own.  The first paved road linking Merida to Puerto Juarez was built in 1954, allowing limited access to the area. 
The first location of Qubano Restaurant on Isla


Travelers were faced with a long arduous bus from Merida to Puerto Juarez, then a ride on the Sultana del Mar the original and, very slow, passenger boat. 

The streets of the island were carved into the sand.  Sand that drifted with the wind, piling up against buildings, causing havoc for the rare vehicle on the island. 

The new location on Hidalgo Avenue

The main area of habitation on Isla Mujeres was a sleepy little fishing village, with no amenities and couple of hundred permanent residents. 

She fell in love with the island, returning often and in 1978 with two young children, aged three and five, in tow.  Ten years ago she finally built a permanent home on the island. 

"Why," I asked, "did you open a restaurant?" 

"Because my friends liked my food.  They kept telling me - you should open a restaurant. 

So I did."   

Vivian's first location was on the Abasolo Street in Centro.  A cozy, colourful, little place that could squeeze about a dozen patrons inside. 

A few months ago she doubled the seating capacity - moving to a new location across from Angelos Steak House on Hidalgo Avenue.  It is just as cozy, warm, and colourful. 

And the food is still yummy! 

Lawrie's Sliders & my Vivian's Salad

Lawrie is a fan of the little Hamburger Sliders. 

Me, I am a admirer of her special Vivian's Salad, recipe that she created over forty years ago.
 
We haven't tried any of the pork dishes as yet.  But I'm sure that Vivian's Miami friend did a great job teaching her how to cook pork. 

Me, I'm just glad she listened to her friends' advice.  "Open a restaurant."
The Famous Fries!

 

3 comments:

Life's a Beach! said...

Qubano's one of our places to eat on Isla! Love that she has more space on Hidalgo and is open at night.

Ann said...

I agree with Becky--a favorite spot to eat! Thanks for sharing some of her back story with us! Can't wait to eat a the new location.

Lynda said...

Hi Becky and Ann - it is great to have the night-time option to enjoy Viv's food. Cheers L