6801 South Dixie Highway
West Palm Beach, FL
Beer selection: Good variety of Caribbean beers, including a “knock-off” Cuban beer.
Food: Best Cuban cuisine this side of the Florida Straits.
What comes to mind when you think of Cuba?
Republicans think of votes. After all, Cubans are the only variety of Hispanics they don’t want to deport.
“Woke” millenialls donning t-shirts of Che Guevara think of the mass-murdering Cuban revolutionary. (Ok, they probably don’t think of that at all, but, like it’s a cool looking shirt and Colin Kaepernick wears one, and like… Communism is just cool.)
Baseball fans think of Adonis Chapman, whose fastball was clocked at an unhuman 105 MPH during his rookie year with the Reds.
Some think of cigars. The real kind that our federal government has made it a crime to smoke and the knock-off counterfeits you can purchase online.
Others think of young refugees clinging to rafts in shark infested waters, desperately trying to escape the most repressive liberty-crushing regime in the Western Hemisphere.
What comes to my mind when I think about Cuba? What else?
Cubans whip up some of the most delicious dishes on the planet.
And the best place to enjoy Cuban food outside of Cuba is right here at this bustling intersection of a blue collar residential neighborhood in West Palm Beach.
Some places I find myself returning to time and time again—especially if the food is outstanding and is on the way to a major airport. And being open 24 hours is a big plus too.
Havana is just such a place.
On previous mad dashes to PBI (that’s West Palm Beach International Airport for you ground-dwellers), I’ve enjoyed Havana’s medianoche sandwiches—otherwise known as the Cuban panini.
Convinced beyond all doubt that this place is the real deal, today I was ready to dive deeper into their menu.
Of course, part of the attraction of any Cuban restaurant is the bread. And Havana doesn’t disappoint.
My waiter brought a plate of warm buttered Cuban bread along with a La Tropical, “the authentic Cuban beer, in exile since 1960”.
La Tropical once was the Budweiser of Cuba – in a good way. It was the beer everybody drank in Cuba – until Fidel Castro confiscated and nationalized the brewery.
Then, about 20 years ago, some ingenious Cuban entrepreneur actually found the original La Tropical brew master living in exile in South Florida and hired him to recreate the Cuban classic at a brewery in Melbourne, Florida.
Hence, you can now legally drink a knock-off version of Cuban beer, brewed right here in the good old USA.
It kinda feels like you’re really sticking it to the Commies every time you take a sip. Yeah!
As an appetizer, my gracious waiter suggested the Cuban tamale covered in marinated pork.
I’m a sucker for anything with the words “marinated pork.”
But this was no ordinary appetizer. It was a work of art.
The pair of pork tamales came buried under another mountain of pork—and it was the most delicious, tender pork I’ve ever had in my life.
Marinated in onions and Caribbean spices, the pork perfectly complimented the sweet cornmeal of the tamales.
Of course after eating all this and a plate of Cuban bread, I was ready for the check.
Too bad I had already ordered my entrée, Ropa Vieja, which loosely translates as “old clothes.”
Well Ropa Vieja may look like “old clothes,” but it sure tastes good.
Shredded beef slowly marinated and stewed for hours in a flavorful tomato, pepper and onion-based Spanish sauce, Ropa Vieja is the ultimate Cuban dish. And Havana’s version doesn’t disappoint.
Each forkful was packed with Caribbean flavor.
It was enough to feed a small army of Cuban revolutionaries.
But that wasn’t all.
It came with a side of black bean soup and boiled yuca.
Yuca? Well, okay, sometimes I sound a little more cultured than I really am with all these exotic foods I try, so I have to admit, yuca was a bit of a stretch for me.
What is yuca exactly? I’m still not sure. Sort of like a South American potato.
Havana’s version is served in a dish covered in a sweet oniony sauce. Not too exciting. But not the worst thing I’ve eaten either.
The black bean soup, a staple of Cuban cuisine, was savory and filling.
Did I mention that this lunch entrée cost a grand total of $7? It makes you wonder how this place stays in business. No wonder it’s packed 24 hours per day.
Now, I’m not saying I’d swim through shark-infested waters to get to Havana. But let’s just say I’m so thankful I don’t have to.
Rating: Bought the shirt!