On a Bronx street lined with Italian restaurants, one fa?ade stands out?the one with a streetside bar under a shady awning, and a dense gathering of exotic plants and excited diners. This fa?ade belongs to Havana Cafe, which the 2013 and 2014 Michelin Guide honored with a Bib Gourmand award recognizing 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.?
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. Chef Alex 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.
When cool weather forces the french doors closed, groups snuggle up with their mojitos in leather-cushioned chairs beneath brick pillars and exposed rafters. Behind plush red banquettes, murals commemorate a hazy Cuban past lined with shiny classic cars and balconies leaning convivially over narrow city streets.
The chefs at T.C. Island Restaurant & Lounge fuse big, bold Spanish and Latin American flavors into small plates. Their inventive tapas are sized for sharing, tempting sneaked seconds with vegetarian-friendly options such as the patatas bravas and canoa rellena, hot options such as coconut shrimp in a creamy coconut sauce, and cold edibles accented with creative combinations of spices and sauces. Diners may opt to order larger entrees, many of which feature seafood fresh from the piers of City Island. The festive atmosphere continues in the lounge and bar, which daily features bubbling hookahs and a cheekily named happy hour that runs from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday nights are scored with a soundtrack of karaoke, and Fridays and Saturdays host belly-dance performances.
Surrounded on all sides by the waters of Eastchester Bay, it's no wonder that The Black Whale's chefs add undersea favorites to their menu of homestyle comfort food. Maryland crab cakes with roasted-red-pepper sauce share table space with grilled New York Sirloin with mashed potatoes, and the Starving Artist platter marries orecchiette pasta with white beans and fresh mozzarella. Omelet and belgian-waffle stations serve up sustenance at the Sunday brunch buffet. Meals unfold in nautical-minded dining rooms or the back garden, which flaunts sun-drenched trees and a stone fountain instead of the more traditional sculpture of the patio?s bricklayer.
With every cake and cookie that Jolei Desserts founder Jorge Tua makes, his ultimate goal is to match the culinary prowess of his former babysitter and baking guru, Nina. Eschewing classical training for life experience, Jorge built his bakery from the ground up and opened his hard-won labor of love in November 2011. Since that fall day, Jorge can be found bustling about his kitchen happily popping his dulcet confections into and out of ovens or cheerfully deploying his gift of gab upon customers in the front of the shop. Championing the cause of decadent eats made from scratch, Jorge vehemently shuns artificial flavors and preservatives for wholesome ingredients forged by nature rather than man or margarine-making elf. Along with his dedication to old-timey baking practices, Jorge, terrified of becoming known as the “boring neighborhood baker”, challenges himself to switch up his roster of baked goods daily to exercise his culinary creativity while supplying his regular crew of sweet-toothed patrons with sugary surprises each morning.
As a full-time mom, the owner of The Love U Bake keeps her attention on her kids but, as a full-time baker, she finds time to create customized cupcakes and cakes from all-natural ingredients that delight her clients. To do this, she relies on her advanced training in sugar decorations and decorating techniques from the French Culinary Institute and Wilton's courses, as well as her commitment to treating each customer as she would her kids—like family. After baking a moist cake base, she takes her cupcakes one step further by stuffing them with the customer's filling of choice, such as banana pudding, jelly, or belated birthday cards, before topping them with a variety of icings and treats. She also customizes full-size cakes by tailoring the 3-D decorations to complement any wedding color scheme, birthday-party theme, or holiday celebration.
Much like its name, Sugar & Spice combines two temptingly complementary culinary ventures: a gourmet restaurant focused on modern American takes on seafood and beef, and a full onsite bakeshop. Chefs rise early, preparing brunch dishes such as peppercorn-crusted tuna and shaved-black-truffle omelets. At dinner, they plate arrangements of new york strip steak, daily fish catches, and five-cheese mac 'n' cheese, and grind and blend their burgers in house to ensure none contain rare vintage baseball cards. Inside the bakery, cake-makers and designers build 50 flavors of cupcakes and more than 50 cake combinations, as well as custom wedding cakes, fruit and chocolate pies, and decadent cookies. Sugar & Spice also provides catering services and have supplied meals for special events such as backyard barbecues, film shoots, and other large gatherings.