Marta Ines Quintana, owner and chef at Havana Road Cuban Cafe, hails from Guantánamo, a city that has reached new levels of infamy in recent years. But to Marta, Guantánamo’s character and trove of positive attributes far outweigh what it’s become known for. “I am everything beautiful that Guantánamo has,” she told the Baltimore Sun in the spring of 2012, “from food to culture to music to artists.”
With Havana Road Cuban Cafe, Marta has transformed a suburban storefront into a tropical retreat. It’s here, through authentic Cuban dishes, music, and artwork, that Marta is attempting to change the unfavorable perception that has cast a shadow over her native city. Inside Havana Road, mango-red and lime walls and snapshots of Cuba surround visitors as they dig into ropa vieja (tender Cuban brisket) and mojo pollo asado (boneless Cuban chicken breast). The Cubano sandwich, with its hunks of slow-roasted pork, ham, and pressed bread, has become particularly popular. In fact, in 2011, Baltimore Magazine honored the Cubano—not by nominating it for mayor, but by selecting it as the best sandwich in the city.
The Sandbar's cooks help bring a tropical atmosphere to their landlocked lounge with signature dishes that incorporate Caribbean flavors. Their crab cakes arrive with a citrusy side of key-lime rémoulade and the corn-tortilla nachos get loaded with spicy tuna tartare, fresh avocado, and a sweet soy glaze. In addition to the beachside eats, cooks also smoke pulled pork over apple-wood chips and build sandwiches around hamburger patties, Louisiana-style fried catfish, or jerk chicken breast shaped like the Sandwich Islands. Behind a full bar, staff members mix signature margaritas and mojitos for patrons to nurse as they enjoy open mics, live DJ sets, and karaoke nights scheduled throughout the week.