Thursday, May 14, 2009

Little Havana

Occasionally I get out to eat food that isn't barbecue (I know, hard to believe). Last week I finally made it to Little Havana on the always-an-adventure 100 block of Gay Street to celebrate a friend's birthday which just happened to coincide with Cinco de Mayo.

I was pleasantly surprised by the inside of Little Havana. Having only seen the store front, I expected a small, narrow space akin to next-door-neighbor Nama, but Little Havana feels much bigger with tall ceilings, window lights and homey chairs and tables. Also, there are some fake birds attached to the wall that totally remind me of the Tiki Room at Walt Disney World. You know, 'in the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room!' Anyone? Anyone?

photo by max. tiki birds at right.

Between the entire table, we split several appetizers: shrimp ceviche, yuca frita, croquetas and a tamal. I tried them all, and the yuca frita, which tasted sorta like homefries, was the best thanks to the awesome cilantro sauce that came on the side. The croquetas and ceviche were decent but the tamal was bland.

For an entree I went with the lechon asado, traditional Cuban pork roasted in white mojo sauce. It was delish and even better when I ate the leftovers the next day mixed in with yellow rice. I guess Cuban pork improves with age. It's served with a couple of tiny plantains, which -- mmmmmm, and some soupy black beans (or was it black bean soup?), which was ok.

The one thing I wanted to try that I didn't was the Cuban coffee. I love a good cup of it, and I hear Little Havana's is very good. But Cuban coffee after 5 p.m. just seems like a really, really bad idea. Also, they have a handful of bottled and draft beer and Latino soda.

The service is good and the owners are friendly, and that goes a long way in my opinion. We didn't have any trouble getting a table for six, and I haven't heard anyone say they've had a hard time getting a seat (I imagine that has something to do with the construction.

Little Havana definitely fits the need for more Cuban food in Knoxville, so please throw some business their way especially while their street is shut off to vehicle traffic.

Little Havana
137 South Gay St.
Knoxville, TN 37902
865-525-2600

A menu!

24 comments:

Discordia said...

This is still run by the same guys who were running it in The World Grotto about a year ago, right?

And thanks for getting the Tiki Bird song stuck in my head. At least it's not "It's a Small World".

max. said...

if you need your coffee to act like a bolt of lighting, i suggest trying their cuban coffee. it is delicious, potent, and petite.

B said...

i've been there once for dessert. they were really nice and i liked the space a lot. there was also a video playing behind the bar of people on bikes on dusty roads, i'm guessing of somewhere in south america. it made me all dreamy about traveling, which was nice.

the dessert had been sitting out a while, i could tell. it was late when i went, but still. i want to go back and try some food.

i wish people would go eat there instead of waiting to sit at nama for 45 minutes. shame.

Wright said...

Had a cuban sandwich yesterday at Little Havana and it was delicious. I'll return soon.

Speaking of BBQ, however, have you tried Sweet P's yet? New location on Old Maryville Pike right on the lake. Good stuff.

Robert said...

Little Havana is my default take-out eatery. It's so good, and, coming from someone who likes sushi, but cant live off it, Havana does the trick. And the Modern Gal is right-the servers/owners are incredibly welcoming and you can tell are putting in a lot of effort to make it an exceptional restaurant.

From what I gather in talking to the owners, business is good, but opening on a defunct Gay St. cant be good for anyone. So be sure to bring Little Havana into your eating-out rotation.

ck said...

I've been there five times since it's opened, and have been pleased every time. Ask for the hot sauce- it will melt your face off. And the Cuban coffee is just the thing for fending off a food coma and facing an afternoon at the office. It's actually becoming a minor addiction of mine...

I hope they add cafe seating on the sidewalk soon- then I can realize my dream of Cuban food, Cuban coffee, and a Cuban cigar- together at last.

em said...

The Corvina Matacumbe is fabulous! And they have great happy prices on beers. I am really happy to have them as my neighbors on the 100 block. The tostones (fried green plantains) are awesome, as well; and so are the rice and beans.

Pitfalls:
The ceviche is tiny, way too garlicky and very overpriced for the portion size. And I am pretty sure the empenadas are premade (somewhere else) and frozen. Why? Because when my bf ordered one, it came still frozen in the middle. That's a shame because fresh, homemade empanadas are the best.

The Modern Gal said...

Someone else has said that about the empenadas. I think maybe the tamale was out of a box too. I understand, 'cause they're labor intensive, but a tamale out of a box is not a tamale worth eating.

Discordia said...

B, I imagine the movie you're referring to is The Motorcycle Diaries (The story of Che Guevara).

B said...

well, not so much motorcycles as much as bicycles.

Anonymous said...

thank you for posting the menu. It was the deciding factor for last night's dinner choice. The mojito was a little lite on the rum, the server slightly overbearing and then suddenly out of reach but everything else was fantastic.

Anonymous said...

In the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki room... all the birds sing words and the flowers bloom.

Anonymous said...

123

Anonymous said...

THERE'S ANOTHER CUBAN PLACE IN MARYVILLE ON EAST BROADWAY, AROMA CAFE'S CUBAN FOOD, IT'S FAMILY RUN. THE FOOD IS ALWAYS FRESH & DELICIOUS! THEY HAVE AWESOME CUBAN SANDWICHES TOO!

Alex Cabrera said...

Cubans aren't Mexicans. The fact that you went on May 5th isn't a curiosity as it means nothing to Cubans.

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