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Café Habana – Plate 45
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Café Habana – Plate 45

Café Habana and Habana Outpost are owned by the same people. They’re in the business of serving awesome Cuban food to the folks of NYC, One serves Brooklyn and another serves Manhattan. The one in Brooklyn has mainly outdoor seating, so it’s closed for the winter. It also is the one that Dan Delaney thought we were going to.

To be honest, when he said we were going to the one in Brooklyn, I just smiled and said yes, so this is partially my fault. I usually leave the house without knowing exactly where I am going, and that’s led to some long walks when I get out of the subway from time to time. I’m writing this at 7:00 AM and I don’t know where I’m going for dinner tonight without looking at my schedule. Dan blames himself, but if I was in his shoes, I’d wonder how a guy with a project this intricate didn’t know what borough his appointment was in.

Oh yeah, and I didn’t know what time it was at either. We arrive at 9:00 PM for a 7:00 PM reservation. As an ex-server, I absolutely detest people like this, and now I’m one of them. I hope they didn’t hold my table for long if at all. We ask ZZ for a few white sangrias to start, but to ask the GM for drinks and then walk outside in the middle of super dinner rush is just a plain dumb idea. We meet (I forget her name, but she was a friend of Dan’s) and sit down for dinner.

We have the Corn (left), the Sincronizada (pic) and the Ensalada de Mango (above) as appetizers. I have a couple friends who are absolutely pumped about this style of corn, but I haven’t been able to wrap my head around it thus far. I like it, but growing up a Mainer, I prefer the steamed stuff I get with my lobster slathered in butter with some salt and pepper (I’m a minimalist at heart). This one was the most surprsising so far, the lime was a nice touch. My favorite appetizer was the mango salad. I don’t know if it was the vitamin C that my body was craving at the moment or the combination of flavors, but I suspect it was a bit of both.

We get the Camarones al Ajillo (pic) and the Grilled Steak (pic) for entrées, and of course we have to try the Cuban Sandwich (right). I’ve had so many different iterations of this favorite, I’m not sure which one is (of there even is) a true Cuban. Shredded pork, sliced pork, mayonnaise, thin bread, thick bread, mounds of cheese, dijon mustard … it’s so tough to tell which one is “authentic” when authenticity can’t be measured. The links out there don’t help too much either (pic, recipe). This one had bread a bit thicker than I am used to, but it was a great consistency and it had shredded roast pork, which made it all better. The swiss was good and chewy, the pickles good and pickley.

I wasn’t pumped about the grilled steak, but I was quite happy with the shrimp. The sauce was pretty spicy and worked really well with the rice and beans.

And the mojitos. We had more than a few of these. They were flowing pretty heavily there. The thing I remember most about this place (I hate to take away from the food) that everyone, from the staff to the patrons, was super friendly. This might have been the most fun I’ve had at a dinner thus far. The seats were in close proximity to each other, so we drifted in and out of conversations with the tables next to us. I really loved the atmosphere.

And here’s a video of the atmosphere:

Guest Writer: Daniel Delaney

The IRL Arts Foundation and The Wandering Foodie thank Cafe Habana for providing this meal.

Cafe Habana
17 Prince St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 625-2002

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