When Streit’s family in Orlando, Fla., has a cookout, a typical turnout is 70 or 80 people. Helping out is not optional.
“The last large one was when we still had our farmhouse in Orlando,” said Streit. “It was my uncle’s 99th birthday, and we had 85 people.”
The Lost Cuban is expected to open Thursday at 209 Third St. SE, offering such specialties as ropa vieja, Cuban sandwiches and cheese empanadas. The food will come from family recipes handed down by Streit’s grandfather and grandmother, who immigrated to south Florida in 1960 by way of Venezuela after Castro’s takeover.
Cuban cuisine draws from a flavor palate that includes cumin, oregano, lime, lemon, onion, sour orange and olives.
Streit decided to move to Cedar Rapids when his girlfriend, Charlotte Cifuentes, accepted a position at the Cedar Rapids General Mills plant. On the long road trip from Florida to Cedar Rapids, he realized how different the corn-carpeted July landscape of the Midwest was from his native Florida.
“I could call it ‘The Lost Cuban,”‘ Streit recalled remarking to Cifuentes in a discussion of his restaurant idea.
The search for a restaurant location quickly led Streit to the site formerly used by Salsa del Rio and Victor’s Burritos. He liked the proximity to the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmer’s Market, the Paramount Theatre and the convention center complex.
Streit worked the final days of Salsa del Rio for its owner, then went to work remodeling the space for the Lost Cuban. The remodeling included a new floor, more vibrant colors and a floor plan that allows some stacking space for customers who queue up for a Cuban sandwich.
The restaurant is expected to open Thursday at the latest. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The restaurant seats about 50.
Excitement is running high, and Streit’s phone keeps buzzing with callers asking when he’ll be open.
“Last week there were four people who called from Wisconsin who want to come,” Streit said. “They saw pictures of the food on Facebook.”