A yellow and white striped awning shades the five stools that sit outside Cafecito, a two-storefront Cuban restaurant on Avenue C. On the left, bar stools line a counter that extends outside, so on sunny days one can sit outside and watch passerby, ordering minty fresh mojitos or Cuban coffees from the counter. On the right, tables are densely packed into a brick-lined dining room, lit dimly at night, and always cozy and bustling. Opened in 2004 by Manuel Garcia -- of Cuban descent but a generation removed -- and business partners Ian Pearl and Gregory Kussoff, from Miami, Cafecito serves authentic Cuban dishes at inexpensive prices.

Chicken and beef empanadas for $2.50 a piece are a perfect starter, though the bollos, sizeable black bean fritters studded with freshly roasted corn are highly recommended, 2 for $2.00. Tostones, or twice fried green plaintain chips, warm and slightly crisp with a hint of both salty and sweet, are worth a solo order if you don't order an entree where they come on the side.

Bocadillos, or pressed Cuban sandwiches, are served on generously-sized french rolls, pressed until uniformly hot, cheese oozing out the sides. The traditional Cuban sandwich is the way to go: roast pork, fresh ham, swiss cheese, mayo, and mustard get an extra zing from the mandatory dill pickle. On a recent night Gothamist also tried the Elena Ruz -- adobo turkey, swiss cheese, lime cured Bermuda onions, and cranberry salsa on sweet midnight bread -- a savory combination with a sweet and tangy bite, and it is now officially our new favorite sandwich.

Entrees usually come with the aforementioned tostones and either red or black beans, though not uniformly, so read the menu with a close eye. Gothamist opted for the Masitas de Puerco, Mojo marinated pork served with grilled onions, roasted corn, and a sweet potato hash. Large, juicy, boneless hunks of pork, seared to a crisp on the outside, but tender inside, came on a bed of deliciously fresh medley of corn and potato. Our dining companion devoured the must-try Cuban classic, Ropa Vieja, a beef stew made from pull flank steak with fresh peppers, onions, tomatoes, and kicked up with a healthy amount of freshly ground cumin.

Traditional flan or tres leches with roasted pineapple salsa will satisfy any sweet end-of-meal cravings, though with a pitcher of either red or white sangria during the meal, you might not need dessert. Beer, fresh juice, and cocktails are also offered.

With food that is (according to Gothamist's dining companion) both comforting like a home-cooked meal, but flavorful and creative in the way mom's never is, Cafecito is the kind of place that you can't believe you never knew about before, but once discovered, you will go back to over and over again.

Cafecito is located at 185 Avenue C (between 11th & 12th) and open Sun-Wed, 11am-11pm; Thu, 11am-midnight, Fri-Sat, 11am-2am. 212-253-9966.