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.
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.
Portofino Ristorante wins over visitors with feasts of baked clams, slow-cooked pork loins, and tender sautéed chicken atop beds of pasta. Perched upon City Island's waterfront, the restaurant cultivates an atmosphere that, like a tractor christening, is simultaneously rustic and urbane. The patio gives diners a view of New York's skyline; the interior evokes the image of a banquet hall in an Italian countryside villa—maroon leather chairs, warm light descending from chandeliers, and walls decorated in a stucco-esque scumbling and murals of Mediterranean harbor scenes. Guests sup on shrimp stuffed with crab meat or sautéed broccoli raab in cozy candlelit booths, break bread in the Piccolo Room or banquet area, or toast goblets of wine at the tucked-away wraparound bar.
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.
Ohana Japanese Hibachi Seafood & Steakhouse's cooks flip and fire hibachi delicacies tableside, grilling lobster tail and sirloin steak in a sizzling fire show. At the chic bar, bartenders pluck bottles from backlit shelves. Pours of cold and hot sake, plum wine, or specialty drinks such as the chocolate martini complement each succulent dish. After lunch or dinner, a lounge area seats patrons on burgundy couches amid touches of Japanese decor. As DJs spin tunes, flat-screen TVs offset the timeless elegance of shoji screens, whose panels of rice paper and lack of commercials once entertained the Japanese nobility for hours at a time.