Monday night and a busy exterior to begin a joyous experience. This was far from my first time at Cafe Habana. I return here on several occasions, as often as my schedule lets me. The grilled corn has heaven written all over it and the roast pork tacos melt in your mouth. I don’t care if I need 6 toothpicks by the end of the meal. It is all worth it in the moment.
Cafe Habana is a Cuban-Mexican eatery placed in the midst of Nolita. They have a small, vintage restaurant that seats no more than 40 at a time and an adjacent ‘to-go’ venue with a mere 10 seats for a quick eat and go. They have been open since 1998 and continue to thrive in the neighborhood and in my heart.
Since I am such a fan of this place, I have no qualms when it comes down to recommending it to other people. On my latest return, I took my first timer sister so she could see what all my hype was about. We opted for the to go venue so that we wouldn’t have to wait for a table. We took a look at the menu and quickly made our decisions. Once I find a dish that I’m obsessed with, I stick with it. I’m loyal to my food like that! My sister was a newcomer, so she chose something that she was immediately drawn to- the chicken and guacamole burrito. We also got a side of sweet plantains and 2 glass bottles of coke. Little touches like glass bottles of coke bring warm feelings. It’s a small, yet special touch on the entire experience.
Within 10 minutes, our order was ready. I was super excited to be reunited with my grilled corn. My sister, on the other hand, looked skeptical. We began to eat and as usual, I was in heaven. However, as I looked over to the right, I could see the mundane feelings towards the food on her face.
“How do you like it? Try my corn. It is a must have here.”
She takes a bite.
“It’s alright. All those crumbs went everywhere.”
“It’s cheese," I retorted. "It’s messy, but so good right?”
“Well, how is your burrito?” I asked.
“It’s nothing to rave about, like you said. Thanks New Yorker on the go,” she said with sarcasm.
I thanked her for her kindness as she literally scarfed down her food despite her discontent. She continued to go for the plantains often, so at least we had one winner in the bunch.
“Ok, so you only really like the plantains.” I said assuringly.
“These plantains are burnt.”
And then we changed the subject. One person can have a love, obsessive relationship with a restaurant while another will merely eat to appease you. Raving about places diminishes them. So read reviews and hear opinions, but go in with an open mind. Don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed. I’m going to reiterate one more time how much I love Cafe Habana, but don’t take it from me. Go! Experience! Enjoy!
P.S. - Cafe Habana is not only in NYC. They have extended to Dubai!