Tuesday, May 13, 2008

a taste of havana

The Cubans have invaded Market Square! But unlike like Red Dawn, they bring delicious entrees instead of hunting down high school guerrilla fighters.

"A Taste of Havana" is the latest of several food venues that World Grotto has tried on its upper level. The Grotto, for those of you who haven't been there, is the strange hippyish/new age underground bar on Market Square with a pretty decent concert venue (that's another post). The underground part has been humming along for a few years now, but the upper level has seemed to give them trouble. First an art gallery, then some kind of market/spa, most recently an organic deli. Currently, a strange culinary marriage is taking place. The original "Taste of Havana" (a Cuban restaurant up in Fountain City) has teamed up with the Grotto and colonized a smaller version downtown.
In a word, A Taste of Havana is genuine. Full disclosure: I haven't been to Cuba, but have been to Haiti and the DR, which have similar cuisine. The rice and beans that aToH cooks up are as the best I've ever tasted in the States. And plantains! That lovechild of the banana and the potato, fried perfectly to a golden crunch. The meat is all delicious: pepper beefsteak, spicy pork, and lime chicken. My favorite is the beef.

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The portions are huge, and the prices used to be some of the best on Market Square- lately they've jacked up the prices, so go for dinner. Definitely try the Cuban coffee (i.e. strong espresso and lots of sugar). The interior atmosphere leaves something to be desired- a negative byproduct of haphazardly going into the Grotto's space. Don't expect a Cuban feel, this is still a New Age-y place that happens to serve Cuban food. But I think the food more than makes up for it. My recommendation is go sit outside on the Square. And then you can light up a big cigar, which as we all know is the perfect side dish to Cuban food.

Rating: 7 out of 10 wigs on the Wig-O-Meter

[update 7.30.08] A Taste of Havana is going to a new location- see here. -ck


stan said...

so the cubans are colonizing the square? i like your irony. if only they would bring their cigars...

Anonymous said...

I have eaten lunch there one time. I enjoyed it, though the atmosphere is a little off-putting. The thing I really like is that they are totally willing to fill carry-out orders. Ck is right; the entrees are very large, so you could totally split something with a pal.

I also like the "restaurant roundup" logo.

I have a review coming soon; I promise. Each day I do not visit the place I intend to review, I die a little inside. And guess what?! It's out west! Ish!

Chris said...

They only brought entrees? Damn...now I feel silly for shooting their cook and screaming "WOLVERINES!".

We're going to have to try them out. I haven't had good Cuban pork since we moved from North Cuba...errr...Florida in 2000.

Adam said...

Your plantains that were "fried perfectly to a golden crunch" must have been different than mine. I wanted plantains like that (tostones) but was told they didn't make them that way. Instead I got a prep that left them sticky and mushy.

That was my only complaint in my two visits there. AWESOME sandwiches and coffee.

Robert said...

Bring on the Cuban Coffee ... Im there

Bay in TN said...

Yay, a review! My husband brought me a menu from Taste of Havana while he was up there doing the WUOT fund drive, and I've been dying to try it. I love Cuban food -- but how is the bread? Is the bread correct? Because if the bread isn't that perfect crispy Cuban stuff, then I don't need to make the trip.

Mickey said...

I like Chris's comment. Wolverines!

I like Cuban food, too. Your recommendation is good enough for me.

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