UA 501 BWI LAX 1753 2037 320 3A Empower:td: Ch9^:td: Before my flight I met my friends Dale and Gail for lunch at the highly respected cheap eats place Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville, which they'd enjoyed in the past but had not been to for quite a while; it has garnered many good notices in all the media in the meantime. The restaurant is a pretty nondescript storefront in a pretty dusty neighborhood, but inside the maybe 10 booths and 5 tables are pleasant enough, as was our waiter, who however was quick and unsubtle with the upsell but not quite on the ball at times (such as when I wanted another beer). We started off with a sampler platter, an somewhat ungenerous serving of three standards, all of which were good. In order of preference - pernil, a couple ounces of marinated roast pork sliced thin and smothered with onions; croquetas, two small fried blobs of some mashed starchy root flavored with ground ham and colored with annatto, much better than they sound; and yuca frita, which was crisp outside and not quite tender on the inside, quite salty, also two small pieces. The house hot sauce, a thinnish herbal concoction with a gentle attack and a bit, not much, of a backbite, made everything even better. Gail got more of that pernil as her main course; among his inattentivenesses the waiter had not pointed out that this would be the case when she ordered "the roast pork." Not a tragedy, as the stuff was quite tasty. The main courses came in modest servings as well, and we needed all the starchy sides that came with - crunchy tostones, soft sweet plantains, black beans, and rice - to fill us up. Dale's ropa vieja was cumin-scented shredded pot roast, pretty savory, rather like a mild chili. Masitas de puerco were fried cubes of meat, somewhat marinated beforehand; I had moros y cristianos as my side - black beans cooked together with rice and herbs. These come with tostones (fried starchy plantains) or platanos (stewed sweet bananas). Among the starches in common use in the Americas, these are among the ones I like best. Lucky we got some of each. It was simple, wholesome cooking: meat, lots of onions, and modest seasoning, mostly cumin, salt, and hot pepper. It was also, except for my stuff, all preprepared and reheated. Also, it's no longer really cheap eats. When we left, the room, which had been almost deserted when we arrived, was jumping. We still had a couple hours so went off and had some beers. They got me to the airport about 80 minutes before takeoff; as security was surprisingly slow, I didn't have a whole lot of time to kill.