Andy's Restaurant Scorecard: Havana's Pilon, plus scores

Andy's Restaurant Scorecard: Havana's Pilon, plus scores

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It was down to Boston versus Memphis.

Marialys Gonzalez and Pedro Pena ran their Cuban restaurant for two decades in Puerto Rico until they decided it was time to move it to the mainland.

"We had friends in both cities, but it was the weather that brought us to Memphis (in May 2013)," Pena said.

A year and a half later, their restaurant, Havana's Pilon Authentic Cuban Cuisine, 143 Madison Ave., is our High Score of the Week with a near-perfect 99 on its Sept. 26 health inspection.

Gonzalez, who can't speak English, stays in the kitchen, and -- at the risk of sounding chauvinistic -- that's where she belongs. Cuban-born, she's particular and protective over the scratch Cuban recipes she whips up in that kitchen.

"She's very jealous with the kitchen," Pena said. "She only allows me to wash dishes, French fries ... she only allows me to do that!"

The division of labor pays off, as Pena serves customers Gonzalez's secret-recipe dishes, like her authentic Ropa Vieja.

"It's called 'shredded clothes.' That's what it translates to," said customer Ian Read of Byhalia, MS. The Ropa Vieja is shredded beef with olives, carrots, brown rice and black beans -- with a flavorful Cuban marinade. "They have a marinade called 'mojo,' and it's garlic and olive oil ... it really adds flavor to it."

Add a side of yucca (think sweet and smooth potato with onions and garlic) and the strongest, tastiest coffee this side of Havana, and you have a Cuban's favorite Memphis Cuban restaurant.

"We're natural-born Cubans, and they really do their best to really portray what Cuban food is all about," said Erly and Maria Alonso of Cordova, TN.

WHAT ANDY LIKES:

Cuban Cafe (coffee), Ropa Vieja, Cuban Sandwich, Fried Marinated Red Snapper, Guava & Cheese Empanada

OTHER SCORES OF THE WEEK:

T.G.'s, 3870 Macon Rd., Gaisman Park/East Memphis,

98

on Oct. 1

Taco Bell, 1740 Sycamore View Rd., East Memphis,

96

on Oct. 2

Lenny's Sub Shop, 12 S. Cooper St., near Overton Square/Midtown Memphis,

95

on Sept. 30

Lenny's Sub Shop, 3801 E. Shelby Dr., SE Memphis,

95

on Sept. 29

Holiday Deli & Ham Co., 585 Erin Dr., White Station Plaza Shopping Center/East Memphis,

94

on Sept. 29

Dindie's Soul Food, 4375 Stage Rd., Raleigh,

93

on Oct. 1

Pei Wei, 1680 Union Ave., Midtown Memphis,

93

on Sept. 29

The Blue Monkey Midtown, 2016 Madison Ave., Overton Square/Midtown Memphis,

93

on Sept. 30

The Crazy Noodle, 2015 Madison Ave., Overton Square/Midtown Memphis,

93

on Sept. 30

Sekisui Midtown, 25 S. Belvedere Blvd., Midtown Memphis,

93

on Sept. 29

Sweden Kream, 1472 National St., Nutbush/Northeast Memphis,

93

on Oct. 1

Mi Mexico Restaurant, 3816 E. Shelby Dr., Southeast Memphis,

93

on Sept. 30

Tops Bar-B-Q, 1383 Jackson Ave., Madison Heights/North Memphis,

93

on Oct. 2

Barakat's Middle Eastern Market, 5800 Raleigh Lagrange Rd., East Memphis,

92

on Sept. 29

Ciao Bella, 565 Erin Dr., White Station Plaza Shopping Center/East Memphis,

91

on Sept. 29

The Donut Box, 3051 Kirby Whitten Rd., Bartlett, TN,

90

on Sept. 30

Camy's, 3 S. Barksdale St., Midtown Memphis,

90

on Sept. 30

Captain JJ Fish & Chicken, 3770 E. Shelby Dr., Southeast Memphis,

89

on Sept. 29

Crumpy's Hot Wings, 1336 Jackson Ave., Madison Heights/North Memphis,

89

on Oct. 2

The Haystack, 6560 Highway 51 N., Millington, TN,

87

on Sept. 30

Exline's Best Pizza In Town, 8507 Highway 51 N., Millington, TN,

86

on Sept. 30

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