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.
Fresh vegetables, meats, and Latin spices help capture the home-cooked flavors of authentic Latin cuisine at Caridad Restaurant. A bilingual staff pairs traditional entrees such as roasted chicken and oxtail stew with Latin ingredients such as ripe avocados and flan freshly sapped from a tropical custard tree.
Stepping into La Gloria, visitors suddenly find themselves immersed in a dramatic, red and orange lounge that seems to glow beneath its high ceilings. Plush leather seating, exposed brick walls, and ornate wood trim impresses eyes with design that's as sumptuous as the menu's flavorful entrees. Cuban and Dominican fare comprise the chefs' primary influences, with ceviche, grilled steak with yucca fries, and saffron paella satisfying taste buds, the way a replacing a basketball hoop with a hula hoop would satisfy Michael Jordan.
Like the Brazilian bands that play there on weekends, almost every dish at Sitio Samba & Sabor reflects Latin flair. Chefs craft housemade ceviche, wrap meats in strips of yucca, or grill up Cuban sandwiches. House specialties range from Peruvian-inspired steamed fish stew to ropa vieja, shredded beef stewed in a spice-heavy sauce. Meals wrap up with desserts such as banana flambé or Brazilian pudding piped in from remote pudding pools in the Amazon.
At Mojito Cuban Cuisine, chefs parade platters of Caribbean classics and tropical cocktails through a rustic, airy lounge. At the rough-hewn wooden bar, bartenders shake up the eatery’s namesake cocktail, a mojito crafted from a recipe indigenous to Havana’s famed La Bodeguita del Medio. Brick walls, exposed ceiling beams and faded blue hues lend Mojito a vibe that New York magazine describes as “scenester-friendly and warmly inviting.”
Citing its solar panels, bike-powered blender, and rainwater collection system, The New York Times dubs Habana Outpost “a sort of Rube Goldberg experiment for the hemp-and-composting set.” However, Habana Outpost is not a science fair project—it’s an eco-friendly restaurant, best known for its crisp and succulent Cuban sandwich. The toasted baguette stuffed with pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickle was named one of New York’s top sandwiches by Refinery 29, but it’s not the only reason diners flock to the colorful eatery. Other house specialties, such as grilled corn with cotija cheese and chili powder or fried chicken and waffles on a stick, add to the menu’s slate of eclectic, exotic, and eco-friendly dishes. Just by eating there, diners get a taste of the green lifestyle as they sit on recycled furniture, sip from plastic cups made from corn, and recycle and compost their leftovers.