Restaurant veterans BJ and Gilbert Hernandez infuse Spanish and Latin flavors into traditional Cuban cuisine at both Havana Cafe locations, where chef BJ?s menu has been winning awards since 1989. BJ's tapas have caught the attention of critics at the Arizona Republic and Fodor's the latter describing the ham-and-chicken croquettes and shrimp pancakes as "marvelous." For the house specialty Paella a la Havana, BJ combines five types of seafood?? including lobster, mussels, and scallops??with chicken breast, chorizo, pork, and saffron, and the classic Cubano sandwich sees the chef carefully layering imported ham, mortadella, roast pork,swiss cheese, and pickles, and then pressing the savory stack into a thin, toasty sandwich. Those dining in-house can sample sangria that was voted No. 1 by the Phoenix New Times.
Carly’s Bistro doesn’t look like much from the outside, and the no-nonsense storefront doesn’t suddenly gleam and shimmer inside, either. But folks aren’t here for the ambiance; they’re here to enjoy all manner of food and drink, served well into the night. Owing to its prime location, Carly’s is an artwalk hotspot as well, drawing a creative crowd for its punk coffee shop ambience. Bites are fancier than you might expect – bruschetta draped in prosciutto, fig paste and Gorgonzola; amply stuffed panini, lavash wraps and a good pastrami Reuben round out the weekly offerings. Their Saturday and Sunday brunch still manages to be a downtown secret, bringing plates like a Greek egg sandwich of scrambled egg, feta cheese, tomatoes and spinach on toasted ciabatta. Add a Bloody Mary served in a Mason jar, decorated with a garden of vegetables.