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September 1, 2010

El Rumbon Cuban Trailer gives new meaning to ‘road food’

Fidel Castro is sliding into retirement, and anti-Cuba sentiment feels oh-so ’60s nowadays. We still can’t legally smoke Cuban cigars, but they’re not so hard to score. And Cuban food is starting to look like the next big thing on the Louisville culinary scene.

Havana Rumba broke the ice, earning instant popularity when it opened in St. Matthews almost six years ago; the owners quickly doubled down with sibling Mojito and, more recently, a second location in Middletown. Cocos Lokos added another quality option on the Hurstbourne corridor last year, and Cuba Libre, new in Jeffersonville this summer, is drawing crowds.

Now, an amiable Cuban chef named Reinold Febles has added yet another tasty dimension with Cuban street food. Febles, who’s worked in a number of kitchens around town, sets up his large, spic-and-span food trailer on auto-dealer parking lots around Oxmoor Center, serving Cuban food as well as some Mexican favorites (burritos, quesadillas) and Norteamericano fried chicken and hot dogs.

Bedeviled by a weird regulatory situation aimed at state fair and music festival food trailers, mobile food vendors may only be licensed for 15 days in a fixed location before they have to move on. With the generous assistance of several Oxmoor-area auto dealers, his trailer, El Rumbon, has been alternating between Oxmoor Mazda, 7913 Shelbyville Road, and Oxmoor Ford, 100 Oxmoor Lane, where he’s currently situated and plans to stay through Sept. 4.

If you’ve got a hankering for freshly prepared and bounteous, but simple, Cuban fare, give Febles a yell on his cell — 210-9087. He’ll gladly tell you where to find the trailer and, if you like, take your order in advance. Or just drive along Shelbyville Road near Oxmoor and look for the big maroon trailer. He’s usually open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.

Step up to the big screened window on the side, ducking into the shade of the porch, and Febles (or maybe his dad or one of his bright and friendly youngsters) will take your order and cook it up while you wait, asking your preference among a variety of mojo and aioli-like sauces in several degrees of heat.

The menu is posted on the side of the trailer for your scrutiny. It’s entirely in English, so if you’re looking for, say, lechon asada, you’ll have to figure out on your own that it’s actually “baked pork with Creole mojo on Cuban bread.” (Or just ask Febles.)

Nothing on the menu tops $7, and plenty of filling dishes, including an assortment of omelets, are tagged at $4 or $5.

We’ve dropped in a couple times and found the food consistently fresh and well prepared, the portions generous. The Cuban sandwich ($7) is a hefty version with the usual suspects — ham and roast pork, white cheese and spicy sauce piled high on white, fluffy and tender-crusted Cuban bread. The fries were not particularly memorable, but switching over to crisp, sizzling yucca fries next time took care of that.

The marinated pork ($7) was outstanding. Marinated in a secret blend of citrus and maybe tamarind, the pulled and tender roasted pork were heated on the grill along with sautéed onions, then stacked high on a half-loaf of excellent Cuban bread.

The marinated beef-steak sandwich ($7) was filling, too. Thin slices of beef had spent time in a tart-sweet citrus marinade before being grilled, piled onto Cuban bread, garnished with lettuce and tomato, then schmeared with a spicy sauce.

Fried ribs ($6) might sound like a Southern treat, but these aren’t breaded, thankfully. Four hefty bones, coated with a peppery dry rub, were fried until dark and crisp on the exterior, but they remained meaty and chewy within. It was a new and different rib experience, but one worth going back to relive.

We’ve spent well under $20 for two, not counting tip, on every visit, and unfailingly brought home leftovers for another lunch and dinner. Come hungry, but bring a little patience, as this is a one-person shop. It’s worth the short wait.

El Rumbon Cuban Trailer
Oxmoor Ford or Oxmoor Mazda parking lot
210-9087
Robin Garr’s rating: 85 points