Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sticking it to the Commies, Cuban Style

6803 South Dixie Highway
West Palm Beach, FL
Visited August 25, 2010

Beer selection: Good variety of Caribbean beers, include a “knock-off” Cuban beer.

Food: Best Cuban cuisine this side of the Florida Straits.

What comes to mind when you think of Cubans?

Republicans think of votes. After all, Cubans are the only variety of Hispanics they don’t want to deport.

Mush-brained dope-smoking teenagers donning T-shirts of Che Guevara think of the mass-murdering Cuban revolutionary. (Ok, they probably don’t think of that at all, but, gee, like it’s a cool looking shirt and like, Jay-like-Z wears one and like…never mind.)

Baseball fans think of Adonis Chapman whose fastball was clocked at an inhuman 105 MPH during his rookie debut with the Reds this year.

Some think of cigars. The genuine kind our federal government has made it a crime to smoke and the knock-off counterfeits you can purchase on-line.

Others think of refugees clinging to rafts in shark infested waters, desperately trying to escape the most repressive liberty-crushing regime in the Western Hemisphere.

What comes to the mind of Suit757 when thinking about Cubans? What else?


Cubans can whip up some of the most delicious dishes on the planet. And the best place off island to try them is right here at a bustling intersection in a blue collar residential section of West Palm Beach.

Some places I find myself returning to time and time again. Of course it helps if the place serves outstanding food and is located on the way to a major airport. And being open 24 hours is a big plus too.

Havana is just such a place.

On previous mad dashes to PBI (that’s West Palm Beach International Airport for you ground-dwellers), I’ve enjoyed Havana’s out-of-this world Cubano and Media Noche sandwiches. That’s a ton of deliciousness for less than $6!

Convinced beyond all doubt that this place is the real deal, today I was ready to dive deeper into the Cuban menu.

Of course, part of the attraction of any Cuban restaurant is the bread. Havana doesn’t disappoint. Prior to the entre, my waiter brought a plate full of warm pieces of buttered Cuban bread along with my La Tropical, “the authentic Cuban beer, in exile since 1960”.

La Tropical once was the Budweiser of Cuba – in a good way. It was the beer everybody in Cuba drank – until Fidel Castro confiscated and nationalized the brewery.

Then, about a decade ago, some ingenious Cuban entrepreneur somehow found the original La Tropical brew master from the 40s and 50s in exile in South Florida and hired him to recreate the Cuban classic at a brewery in Melbourne, Florida.

Hence, you can now legally drink a knock-off version of a Cuban beer, brewed right here in the good old U. S. of A.

You almost feel like you are sticking it to the Commies every time you take a sip. Yeah!

My excellent waiter talked me into the appetizer special of the day, a Cuban tamale covered in marinated pork for $8.


I’m a sucker for anything containing the phrase “marinated pork”. And eight bucks isn’t too outrageous for an appetizer. But I should have thought about something – an appetizer that costs more than the entre or an entire Cubano sandwich?

I should have known. This was no ordinary appetizer. It was a work of art.

Aesthetically plated with lettuce, a bright red tomato slice and a couple lime wedges, the pair of corn bread tamales stuffed with pork were buried under a mountain of the most delicious, fall-apart tender pork I’ve ever had in my life.

Marinated in onions and Caribbean spices, the pork on top and the pork inside were perfectly complimented by the sweet corn meal of the tamales.

Of course after finishing off nearly a pound of marinated pig and a day’s worth of carb-loaded corn meal and Cuban bread, I was ready for the check.

Too bad I had already ordered my entre of Ropa Vieja, loosely translated as “old clothes”.

Ropa Vieja may look like “old clothes”, but it sure tastes good.

Shredded beef slowly marinated and stewed for hours in a flavorful tomato, pepper and onion-based Spanish sauce, Ropa Vieja is the quintessential Cuban entre. And Havana’s version didn’t disappoint. Each forkful of tender shredded meat was packed with Caribbean flavor.

It was enough delicious beef to feed a small army of Cuban revolutionaries. But that wasn’t all.

It came with a side of black bean soup and boiled yuca.

Yuca? Well, okay, sometimes I like to sound a little more cultured than I really am with all these exotic Suit757 foods I try in various corners of our country, but, I have to admit, yuca was a bit a of stretch for me.

What is yuca exactly? I’m still not sure. Sort of like a South American potato.

Fortunately, Havana’s version is served in a dish covered in a sweet oniony sauce. Not too exciting. But not the worst thing I’ve ever eaten either.

The black bean soup, a staple of Cuban cuisine was excellent and filling.

Did I mention that all the food included in this lunch entre cost a grand total of $7? It makes you wonder how this place stays in business. No wonder it’s packed 24 hours per day.

I’m not saying I’d swim shark-infested waters to get to Havana. But let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have to.

Rating: Bought the shirt!
Havana Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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