This article was published in The Essay Magazine on October 4, 2012:
Take a turn into the alley at 33 N. Court Street and you’re greeted by Cuban music, growing in volume as you approach Sol’s front entrance. When you walk in the door of the Cuban Fusion restaurant,
you’ve entered an atmosphere like no other in Athens, Ohio.
As Sol owner Todd Wilson describes it, Sol is “a place where people can feel like they’re on vacation without having to leave Athens.”
Cuban-fusion cuisine got its name from the many cultural cuisines combined to create it, including Spanish, Carribbean and African. The meat is the central part of the dish, blended with vegetables, rice or beans.
“Everybody I know that has ever tried Cuban food loves it,” Wilson said, “It’s fresh, it’s different, but familiar enough ingredients that you’re not freaked out.”
Wilson grew up in Athens and met his wife here in grade school. His wife was born in Miami, Florida, where her parents had immigrated to the US from Cuba. They then moved to Athens. She and Martin moved to Miami in 1994 after they graduated from Ohio University. They spent ten years living in Miami, the Cuban-Fusion center of the United States, before moving back to Athens and starting Sol.
Sol began as a street buggy and opened it its new location on February 2 this year.
The restaurant has been using various local food products in its cuisine since it opened. Because of this, Sol’s menus and specials are constantly changing with the seasons and what is available locally.
For example, a recent dish offered was a shrimp avocado and mango salad that used a dressing made from Ohio’s own pawpaw.
“You can’t get that anywhere else,” Wilson said.
The restaurant has a bar with drink specials and dancing late on weekend nights. From 10:30-11:30pm, Sol hosts Salsa lessons with Cuban appetizers available, and from 11:30-2:00am, there is a DJ and open dancing on Fridays.
Sol is unique to Athens for its cuisine, its atmosphere, and its vacation-esque nightlife.
Check out Sol’s website at www.solrestaurant.net for menu updates, special events, and photos of the Cuban Fusion Cuisine.