“Don’t let your dreams be dreams,” says the Even Stevens star-turned-performance-artist Shia LeBeouf. I took his advice (why not, right?) and started my search for an authentic Cuban restaurant. I’ve lived in Jacksonville for about six years, and I’ve eaten at a Cuban restaurant only once (Pollo Tropical doesn’t count). I’ve long been on the lookout for the right place to satisfy my unquenchable thirst for authenticity. Friends have been recommending Beach Boulevard hole-in-the-wall My Dreams for months, so I decided to check it out. True to form, My Dreams was difficult to find on the map – it’s the sort of restaurant that survives on word-of-mouth of its bona fides: friendly service and really, really good food.
My own dreams aren’t small, but this place is. Its compact nature, though, lends itself to warmth, from the servers to the customers to the food.
First came the potato ball ($2.75). As a self-professed lover of all things potato and fried, I
couldn’t have been happier with this ball of goodness. It’s like a mound of mashed potatoes, mixed with ground beef and fried to crispy perfection. Each bite was crunchy, but also creamy,
with just enough meat so it wasn’t overwhelming. The potato balls can be filling, so don’t plan to have more than two unless you want to make a meal out of them (I wouldn’t judge you if you did).
My Dreams has specialty juices and smoothies. I asked my server to help me choose, and she recommended the mamey smoothie ($4.75). I’d never tried mamey fruit and had no idea what to expect. The smoothie was thick, with a subtle sweetness akin to cantaloupe. Between my potato ball and the smoothie, I was starting to feel full, but of course I kept going.
The lunch special, almuerzo, includes white rice, black beans, a meat, and a side for $9.50; an awesome deal considering the amount of food. My Dreams doesn’t skimp on beans and rice, serving a hearty portion of each. Throw in the ropa vieja (stewed beef), plus the tamal on the side, and you’ve got enough food to last for three meals (depending on how many potato balls you have). Your breath is likely to clear rooms after your visit to My Dreams – the delicious cornmeal tamal is drenched in garlicky butter.
Thank you, My Dreams, for adding these delectable details to my own personal dreams: potato balls, cheerful service, mamey milkshakes, and authentic Cuban cuisine in Northeast Florida.