Havana’s Cuban Cuisine opened its doors in mid-June, facing a long hot summer in an economy that hasn’t been kind to restaurants. But this 90-seat venue has been sizzling, bringing crowds to a humble strip shopping plaza in Cooper City, one of the few places in South Florida where it’s tough to find Latin food. Co-owner Michael Mellion said he believed Havana’s would fill a niche, and it looks like he was right.
The menu features homey Cuban classics, but if you’re not in the mood for lechón asado or ropa vieja, you can order an Argentine churassco or Mexican quesadillas. And while the place has an upscale vibe, the prices won’t bust your budget — the most expensive dish is $19.95. We arrived around 7 p.m. and didn’t have to wait, but the place was packed after 8. Tables being added outside should help accommodate the overflow when the weather cools.
Ambience: Long-time residents would be hard-pressed to recognize this as the former home of Fried Green Tomatoes. Mellion and co-owner Jennifer Scheer (her brother runs Barrio Latino in Aventura and a branch being built in Coral Gables) gutted and transformed the storefront. Textured ochre walls and wood furniture are offset by contemporary corrugated metal accents, granite bar counters and high ceilings. You can catch a glimpse of the game on four flat-screen TVs, but they’re unobtrusive.
- Buttered Cuban bread
- Refreshing, not-too-sweet white sangria
- Crowd pleasing appetizers – chorizo, tamales and chicken and beef empanadas in a light pastry shell
- Calamari, tender rings of squid marinated in buttermilk, battered and perfectly fried, served with a summery pomodoro sauce
- Cherna en salsa verde – a juicy fillet of grouper topped with succulent shrimp and a parsley cream sauce
- Pechuga de pollo al champiñón – lean slabs of grilled chicken in a rich mushroom sauce
- Delicious 10-ounce churassco
- Juicy & well-seasoned house-trimmed skirt steak served with a vibrant chimichurri
- Nice & crisp sweet plantains
- Jumbo sweet potato
- Silky flan made from a recipe passed along by Scheer’s 96-year-old abuela
- Irresistible, dreamy crepes filled with dulce de leche, rolled like a cigar and drizzled with caramel sauce
What Didn’t Work
- Dry shredded beef in vaca frita
- Overcooked pork chops
- Shrimp delivered when lobster was ordered