On a Bronx street lined with Italian restaurants, one façade stands out. Diners and exotic plants gather around a streetside bar under a shady awning. Smells of Cuban and Latin-American cooking spill out from an intimate dining room, and, in the kitchen, a custom brick oven burns through shovelfuls of bricks under the direction of Chef Alex Garcia. At Havana Cafe, he designs modern interpretations of classic dishes, resulting in cultural collisions such as brick-oven pizza topped with beef picadillo and piquillo peppers. Straightforward renditions of Latin flavors abound as well, in the form of adobo-rubbed shrimp, churrasco-style grilled steaks, and sides and sauces made with tropical produce such as plantains, mango, and yuca. The 2013 Michelin Guide honored Havana Cafe with a Bib Gourmand award, which recognizes the inspectors’ favorites for good value. PIX-11 confirmed the restaurant's status as a neighborhood staple during a 2011 Bronx Restaurant Week profile, noting that it’s “become famous fast for serving great food in a welcoming atmosphere.”
When cool weather forces the french doors closed, groups snuggle up with their mojitos in leather-cushioned chairs below brick pillars and exposed rafters. Behind plush red banquettes, murals take diners into a hazy Cuban past lined with shiny classic cars and balconies leaning convivially over narrow city streets.