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WAKE FOREST — Randy Hernandez is no stranger to the Wake Forest restaurant community. His family started Tropical Picken’ Chicken and the Empanada Factory before selling the businesses.
But Hernandez said his family is returning to Wake Forest with a new venture: Rumba Cubana, a restaurant and rum bar that could open by the first week of December.
The store will be in the former Lost Cajun building on Forest Pines Drive. That restaurant shuttered in September, and Hernandez said he is looking forward to giving the space new life.
“I’ve been looking to come back into the community but the Wake Forest area is really tight,” Hernandez said. “There’s nothing really available unless you’re going to start it from scratch. So this was a great opportunity.”
Hernandez, who currently owns the Red Monkey Latin fusion restaurant at Crabtree Valley mall in Raleigh, said he happened to be at the Lost Cajun building when the owners put up a for sale sign. He called the number before they finished putting the sign up.
Unlike his past restaurants, which have incorporated Puerto Rican and Dominican recipes along with Cuban dishes, Hernandez said Rumba Cubana will feature “straight, authentic grandma-style Cuban food” found at “restaurants like there are in Miami.”
“Wake Forest doesn’t have anything like that,” Hernandez said. “We wanted to bring something different back to the community.”
On the menu will be ropa vieja (shredded beef and the national dish of Cuba), vaca frita (fried beef), lechon asado (roasted pork) and congri (black beans and rice). Rumba Cubana will also feature Cuban bread, Cuban coffee and Cuban tamales.
On Fridays and Saturdays, the restaurant and bar will be open until 2 a.m. and will feature dancing and music. Hernandez said the rum bar will feature imported Latin-inspired rums, many of which will be from Cuba. Next year, he hopes to add a breakfast menu.
Hernandez lives in Wakefield. He said owning a local business and being part of the community he lives in was a major appeal of his past restaurants that he is looking to get back to.
While running the Empanada Factory and Tropical Picken’ Chicken, Hernandez said he would sponsor little league teams, donate meals to feed families during the holidays and catered father-daughter school dances at reduced prices.
“I actually regret selling that restaurant because I missed being involved with the community and speaking with everyone,” Hernandez said.
Rumba Cubana is finishing inspections and an opening date is expected to be announced in the coming days or weeks. The restaurant will open at 11 a.m. daily and close at 8 p.m. Sunday, 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 2 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Anyone interested in applying for work as a cook, server or bartender should email Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org.