Calm before the storm: Cabana filled up quickly on an early Saturday evening. Photos by Angie Bryan

Brand-new Latin cocktail bar and restaurant Cabana gets you in the spirit before you even enter, thanks to its vibrant yellow exterior and Afro/Samba/Latin music. Owned by former Miamian René Emilio Pena, who is of Mexican and Dominican descent and also operates La Bodega Latina, Cabana features shareable tapas and original cocktails, all with an emphasis on Dominican flavors.

Located in the space formerly occupied by Piccolo, Cabana is small. Very small. If you’re into social distancing, this is not the place for you. There are four very close barstools with backs and footrests at the main bar, four regular-height round tables against a cushioned banquette, and two wooden bar counters with three backless metal stools each.

My drinking companion and I loved the tropical décor – black-background patterned wallpaper behind the banquette, red lighting, bright green paint on the other walls, and lots of plants. We were enthusiastically welcomed upon our arrival; by 5:40 p.m. on the Saturday we visited, it was packed.

Cabana has done a great job with the menu, both in terms of visual appeal and content. The cocktails (all $14), described as Mujeres de Cabana (Spanish for Women of Cabana), are accompanied by fun drawings of women enjoying cocktails, most of which have common Latin female names, but one of which (the Jackie, described on the menu as “cachaça, lime, sugar, fire”) is named after the owner’s mother, while another (the Ruby, containing rum, dry vermouth, Curaçao, and grenadine) is a nod to Ruby’s West End, where one employee used to work. They also have two mocktails ($7-$10), two $6 shots, wine and beer.

The Valentina and Alma are two of the speciality cocktails served at Cabana.

My friend opted for the Valentina (rum, velvet Irish whiskey, guava, lime and oat froth); I went with the Alma (Amaro Averna, tequila reposado, pineapple, lime, demerara, mole and tamarind soda). We weren’t fans of mine, but the Valentina more than made up for it. Served in a stunning tall-stemmed glass, the pink-colored cocktail with a light foam on top was exquisitely blended, with a velvety texture and with the guava shining through but not overpowering. An absolute home run.

Our drinks came out right away, but our small plates were taking a while. Without our saying anything, our server brought over a generous portion of spiced nuts (with Tajin, a Mexican seasoning made from a blend of peppers, lime, and salt), which were supremely addictive. I would definitely order them (they’re $5 on the menu) the next time I’m there.


When our food arrived, we were pleasantly surprised by the portion sizes. She had the $17 ceviche (white fish, coconut, shallot, green apple, cilantro and jalapeno, served with insanely delicious chips that reminded us of a very thin fry bread); I had the $18 Cubano sliders, a set of three mini-burger buns filled with pulled pork, Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, bread and butter pickles, and Dijon mustard. Moist and flavorful, they would be the perfect accompaniment to a late night of drinking. The buns got pretty soggy, though, so I ended up having to use a knife and fork, but the taste was so good that I didn’t mind.

As a fun finishing touch, our bills arrived in cigar boxes, and featured little boxes you could check indicating which percentage tip you wished to include – no more drunken math! I’m a fan.

The demographic at Cabana appeared to be primarily people in their 20s and 30s, and the volume of music was not conducive to in-depth conversations. It’s perfect, however, for people seeking to incorporate a little bit of Latin flair and vitality into their evening.

Retired diplomat Angie Bryan writes about Maine’s cocktail bars while making as many puns as her editor allows.

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