2811 NE Glisan, 233-0511

Pambiche is an unimposing and brightly painted Cuban restaurant, where it's likely you will wait for a table, even on weeknights. But if you want to order a Cuban beer while you wait, then you're mierda out of luck.

At Pambiche, there are no Cuban beers, calling to mind the U.S.'s 37-year-old trade embargo against the small island. It seemed, briefly, that Clinton would put this Cold War fossil of American policy to rest. At the United Nations, 167 countries voted for the U.S. to end the embargo, AND he had bipartisan support in the Senate. But in the end, Clinton bowed to the Cuban American lobby and to Al Gore, who was warned he would lose Florida in the election if trade restrictions were loosened. This, of course, is hilarious, since he lost Florida anyway. Now, with Big Tex in the White House, Pambiche is left with little hope of ever serving delicious Cuban brew.

But thank God we're still allowed to eat the food. Even without the beer, Pambiche does a pretty good job at least resembling Cuban food. Ropa Vieja, for example, is a typical Cuban dish: beef stewed in a garlic and tomato sauce until it is tender and, in this particular version of the dish, perhaps a bit too flavorful. For those of us with mellower tastes, there are more palatable dishes like the shrimp with garlic, rice, and avocado salad.

The agreed-upon favorite, however, is the Plato Cubano: tender marinated pork with yucca fried to golden brown perfection in a light garlic and sour orange sauce for only $10. Or try another classic: the golden fried empanadas stuffed with spinach and cheese, white fish in brown garlic sauce, or picadillo, tender ground beef mixed with delectable spices, all for $7 a plate.

Even without the beer, there are few restaurants in town that have such an excellent selection of Chilean and Argentinean wines, ranging from $20 to $100. And make sure to save room for desert: galletas, empanadas dulces, fruits, liqueurs, nuts, and cream. If there's one thing Pambiche has that is distinctly un-Cuban, it's choices. It's a capitalist's dream.