Arts restaurant review

A trip to old Havana

Who knew you could find a taste of Old Havana in Boston?

9663 tuno coco mindy long
Tuna coco crudo, octopus pinareños, and steak churrasco from Mariel, clockwise from bottom left.
Mindy Long

Cuban, $$$
10 Post Office Square #120
Boston, MA 02109
Monday–Wednesday 5 p.m.–12 a.m.
Thursday 5 p.m.–2 a.m.
Friday 4 p.m.–2 a.m.
Saturday 11 a.m.–2 a.m.
Sunday 11:30 a.m.–12 a.m.

The wooden beat of rumba claves mixed with the strums of a Cuban tres rise above the bustle of Boston’s Financial District. Latin music and festive voices can be traced back to Mariel, a Cuban-inspired tapas restaurant operated by the COJE Management Group, which also owns Yvonne’s, Ruka, and Lolita.

Mariel is housed in a former bank, but its interior belies its domineering beginnings. Dimmed lights and rustic architecture captivate the vision upon arrival. Colorful murals splatter the walls, which surprisingly don’t diminish the refined atmosphere but instead complement it, adding a taste of real Havana. A stucco bar greets guests, and around the corner the restaurant opens up to a chandeliered dining hall, which features a DJ stand in the back corner.

I had the opportunity to order from Mariel’s dinner menu. The restaurant is tapas style, which allowed us to sample a wide range of Cuban-inspired dishes. Our waiter recommended the pork empanadas, octopus pinareños, and steak churrasco.

The empanadas were encased in a crispy shell and contained lightly seasoned pork, queso, and ham. The dish also came with a sour and cool salsa that enhanced the savory meat inside. Next we tried the octopus pinareños. Served on lettuce leaves, the dish featured octopus as well as roasted pork belly, onions, and yucca, with a sprinkle of red pepper on top. The meat was dipped in a sweet and tangy glaze. The steak churrasco was an eight-ounce prime skirt, finely precut and glazed with a slightly sweet aji sauce, and sat in a corn and cucumber salsa. We also ordered tuna coco crudo, which was a light ceviche with peppers, onion, and avocado with a slight hint of coconut. The cool ceviche perfectly complemented the heavier dishes we ordered and was our favorite of the night.

To top off the night, we ordered an Old Havana mojito, the most popular drink at Mariel. After all, what’s a trip to Havana without a mojito? Our bartender might have been trigger-happy that night, though, because our drink had more rum in it than anticipated, but I enjoyed the refreshing guava and mint.

Overall, I would highly recommend a meal at Mariel. The tapas menu has something for everyone, whether it be steak, tuna, chicken, or plantains. Loud at times, the Afro-Cuban jazz and “faded elegance” deco can add some spice to your day. Each tapas plate is around $15–20, and two people could finish three to four, placing Mariel on the pricier end of a MIT student’s budget, but not out of reach.