Whenever I’m with my friend Cristina, we end up at the hippest joints.
(That dated description should give you a hint that Cristina is the mastermind behind frequenting these trendy spots.)
On a recent week night, as we were ambling through Nolita, she realized we were in close proximity to a popular restaurant that consistently has a wait time of around an hour. Any place with a perpetually extended waiting period has to be good right?
Not being in a rush, we decided to stick around and see what all of the fuss was about. Luckily, we were seated much earlier than expected due to a ‘Cristina’ mix-up which we conveniently did not announce …
As we dashed to our seats before anyone could throw us ‘fake Cristina’s’ out, we realized how ridiculously crowded this place was. It looked snug from the outside looking in, but once inside I felt like I was in a real-life game of human Tetris! The number of tables and chairs crammed into this tight space has got to be in violation of some fire escape code, but it did make the cafe seem more like a party and further amplified the fact that Habana has more customers than space to serve them. Not a bad problem to have.
The first thing we ordered were margaritas and the grilled ‘crack’ corn we had heard so much about.
Served with chili pepper, lime, and cotija cheese, this ‘Mexican-style’ corn did not disappoint. I now completely understand why this simple ear of corn has a cult following of fans, and can even count myself in as a new member.
For our next course, we decided to order two entrees but share them between us, and went with the Cuban sandwich and the Tlacoyo de Tres Marias. The Cuban was incredibly delicious, stacked high with roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, and some sort of delicious pepper aioli. I would definitely order this again.
The Tres Marias was a corn masa ‘boat’ stuffed with goat cheese, black beans and sundried tomatoes, served along with buttery rice and beans. Out of this world good and beautiful too!
Throughout our meal we had carried on a casual conversation with the French guys at the table next door. Because we were all so crammed in, it really felt like we were all dining together anyway. They allowed me to take a picture of their Grilled Steak and Corn Salad and Bacon Cheeseburger. I wouldn’t think to order a cheeseburger at a Cuban joint, since there are so many more authentic and delicious things to try, but I have to admit that it looked pretty good. The grass-fed skirt steak on the salad looked cooked to perfection as well and I was told the mustard dressing balanced it well.
Café Habana is a great restaurant in a great neighborhood, and if you can handle the noisy and tight quarters, then I would highly recommend you to try it for yourself!