Havana: A User’s Guide
California-Cuban Cuisine | Specialty Mojitos | Tapas
Tapas: twice-fried plantains with pineapple salsa, and grilled shrimp with cilantro-lime sauce
Soup: chicken tortilla with queso fresco and avocado
Entree: plantain-crusted pacific cod with tomatillo-avocado salsa, cuban corn, and sofrito rice
Mojito: Cruzan rum, watermelon puree, mint, sugar, lime juice, and a splash of soda
Where to Sit: For a private event of up to 45 guests, reserve “Little Havana,” the private dining room, which is available for lunch or dinner parties.
When to Go: Mondays for half-priced mojitos by the glass or pitcher.
Havana also caters events that can range from 6 guests to more than 300.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Wander through 3,500 square feet of work by historic, modern, and contemporary artists at Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Drive)
After: Island hop from Cuba to Hawaii by heading to Tiki Tom’s (1535 Olympic Boulevard) for a tropical-style nightcap.
Casa Cubana derives in part from its co-owner's 50 trips to the island nation over the last 20 years. Sam DuVall and Joe Kohn, who also own the decades-old favorite Izzy's Steaks & Chops together, envisioned fresh, California-inspired Cuban food made using traditional methods. And what they and their chef, Enemias Jimenez, came up with is a quality take on the cuisine—plus some clearly denoted vegan and gluten-free dishes you might not find on many Cuban menus.
To eat: The Mercury News recommended the croquettas traditional, featuring applewood-smoked ham, and the camarones y ajillo, or plump prawns and mussels in a coconut-chili sauce. The Easy Bay Express liked the skillet-fried pollo frito and the banana bread pudding.
To drink: Rum, of course! The premier cocktails are the mojito and the Havana sidecar, and there are more than 40 different rums to choose from.
To look at: The walls are adorned with colorful pieces from DuVall's Cuban art collection, one of the largest of such private holdings in the US.
There's no tropical kitsch to be found in Habanas Cuban Cuisine's lovely, loungey corner space, but as Alameda magazine wrote, it's still "the closest you’ll get to Cuba in Alameda for sure." That's due to a friendly, laid-back atmosphere and a menu of tapas and entrees that ranges from simple standards such as twice-fried plantains with pineapple salsa to a sugarcane-glazed pork chop with rum chutney. You'll find the classic Cuban sandwich (ham, roast pork, swiss) at lunch, and there's even a brunch menu with inventive dishes such as a Cuban-style french toast with bread dipped in Cointreau, cream, and cinnamon. Fifteen equally creative mojitos are available by the glass or pitcher.
Five Things to Know About Cha Cha Cha
When coming up with a concept for their restaurant, the founders of Cha Cha Cha—one born in Puerto Rico, the other a Cuban resident for 20 years—met in the middle. They blended the cuisines from their homelands into one eclectic spread and opened the first Cha Cha Cha in upper Haight in 1986. Today, Cha Cha Cha continues to dish out Latin and Caribbean tapas at that original location, as well as at an additional spot on Mission Street. Read on to learn more about these popular and festive eateries:
The Mission St. location has a lot of history. Originally, this building was an Irish dive bar established before Prohibition. Wanting to respect that, Cha Cha Cha decided to adopt the “Original McCarthy” as part of its name.
Tapas anchor the menu. The lineup of these small, sharable plates includes the popular cajun shrimp sauteed in a spicy cream sauce and fried patanos maduros, as well as tropical sweet bananas with black beans and sour cream.
Raciones are essentially entrees. Unlike tapas, these larger dishes are usually ordered all at once and make up an entire meal experience. Cha Cha Cha’s line up raciones include the fan-favorite jerk chicken, which features marinated chicken thighs baked with habanero peppers, raisins, garlic, and tomatoes.
Reservations aren’t accepted at the Haight location. That being said,, a member of your group can come and put the group’s name on the waiting list. Otherwise, everyone can just hang out by the bar until a table is ready. Inside tip: you can also dine at the bar, just be sure to mention it to the bartender.
It’s a good idea to save room for drinks. The sangria and mojitos are must-haves.
Latin Grill Express: A User’s Guide
Tapas-Style Dishes | Cuban-Inspired Classics | Latin American Bites | Live Music | Breakfast & Brunch
Appetizer: empanadas stuffed with ground pork in a tomato-onion sauce
Cuban Dish: roasted pork covered in cumin-citrus sauce and paired with bitter orange-marinated onions
Latin American Dish: slow-roasted and grilled pork ribs slathered in housemade guava-chipotle barbecue sauce
Dessert: sweet fried plantains with queso fresco
When to Go: Saturday for brunch, when musicians play live tunes
Empanada: half-moon-shaped pastry stuffed with savory ingredients, such as meats and veggies; most Latin or Latin-inspired cuisines have some form of the dish.
Tostones: fried slices of unripe plantain; a common side dish in Latin America.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Peruse the works of Chagall to contemporary artists displayed at Franklin Bowles Galleries.
After: Unleash your inner oenophile in the tasting room at Wattle Creek Winery.
Craving Cuban? Paladar Cafe Cubano's flavorful cuisine sure hits the spot.
Order a bottle for the table if you like — this restaurant has a full bar stocked with the best wine, beer, and more.
Paladar Cafe Cubano is a suitable restaurant for both large and small groups.
Al fresco eating options are also available at Paladar Cafe Cubano, which presents a lovely patio seating area for warmer months.
Cut out wait times and book a table ahead of time.
The dress code is strictly casual at Paladar Cafe Cubano, so come as you are (and as you are comfortable).
Short on time? Don't wait for a driver — pick it up yourself.
That's right! Paladar Cafe Cubano will bring their delicious food to your house for any occasion.
At Paladar Cafe Cubano, you can quickly find street and garage parking for the duration of your stay.
Who s hungry for great grub at a reasonable rate? Paladar Cafe Cubano s yummy creations will leave a mark in your memory but not a dent in your pocketbook.
The menu at Paladar Cafe Cubano is inspired by the flavors of Cuba, so swing by today and check out the yummy offerings.