Pledging to bring “the culture, rhythm, attitude and romance of Espiritu Cubano to Tucson,” local restaurateurs Nick and Alison Schaffer have announced that Mojo Cuban Kitchen & Rum Bar will open its doors later this summer.
The restaurant, located at 1929 E. Grant Road, is the newest to join the growing slate of businesses that have collectively revitalized the block of Grant Road between Country Club Road and Campbell Avenue.
“Mojo,” which is pronounced “mo-ho,” and means “Caribbean garlic sauce” in Spanish, owes its existence to ancestral inspiration drawn from Nick’s relatives who frequented Cuba before the revolution, and in particular his great grandfather, who fought alongside Cubans in their fight for freedom from Spain during the Spanish-American War.
“We always wanted to open a Cuban-themed establishment and Tucson seemed to be in need of one,” said Nick Schaffer, the restaurant’s co-owner. “With my family’s background, our love of Cuban food, culture, and traditions, and the opportunity to respectfully build this concept in one of Southern Arizona’s treasured historic neighborhoods, we felt that this was the perfect time and place to launch our new business, one that will transport our guests from midtown Tucson to the heart of Havana.”
The menu will be a nod to Cuban culinary traditions with a dash of modern expression to keep it fun and fresh. Expect to see an authentic line-up of Cuban comforts like ropa vieja, empanadas, fried yuca, mojo chicken, and the quintessential Cubano sandwich.
At the full-service bar, guests will find an impressive array of rums designed both for sipping and for anchoring traditional cocktails, all prepared against the backdrop of what the Schaffers call “a regionally inspired soundtrack intentionally curated to accompany the shaking and stirring.” Selections will include Mojitos, Cuba Libres, Pina Coladas, and, of course, Daquiris, precisely the way Ernest Hemingway prescribed.
Helmed by decorated Tucson chef Janet Balderas, the culinary team and the menu will be a true collaborative among local and national talent, featuring signature touches from sous chef and native Cuban Patricia Espinosa and national Cuban-American and James Beard Award-winning chef Douglas Rodriguez.
James Diedrich, who brings more than 20 years of hospitality experience, including stints with Fox Restaurant Concepts, Prep & Pastry, and other local restaurants, will serve as general manager.
The Cuban background of lead architect and interior designer Miguel Fuentevilla of FORS architecture+interior, will be reflected in the materials, craftsmanship and style, both inside and out.
The midtown oasis, walkable from many nearby neighborhoods, will be open daily for lunch and dinner with a “Sleep-In Breakfast” on the weekend. A pick-up window will maximize convenience when ordering online for pick-up, or when grabbing a quick Cuban coffee and pastry, much like the traditional “las ventanitas” one would find in Little Havana.