Nothing says “Easter” like Cuban food, so that where Darlene and I — along with my parents who were in town for the weekend — went to celebrate the day that has something to do with Jesus and bunnies.
When we drove into the parking lot of Habana Cuban Restaurant in La Mesa, we were greeted with our choice of any parking space we wanted! In other words, we were the only souls there. But since the doors were unlocked, we figured they were open for business. And the greeter Christina was also our waitress. Maybe also the line cook. And possibly the sous-chef. Probably the bus person and definitely the bartender. We’ll never know for sure.
My folks have never had Cuban food, so they pored over the menu for about 2-3 hours. Darlene and I recommended various options, as we’ve been to a few other Cuban places before. Mom and dad settled on the Empanada Cubana with papa dulce roja (sweet yams) and the Sandwich Cubano, respectively.
Darlene had the Lechon Asado (roasted pork) with white rice and black beans, and I just had a couple appetizers — the three-cheese Empenada and a Papa Rellena (potato ball) that was about the size of a chimpanzee’s skull.
Now, I had read some online reviews of Habana’s and they varied from one to five stars. It seemed like either people who had never had Cuban food or people who were Cuban food experts were chiming in with detailed criticisms. I was worried that this was going to be a one-star experience.
Uniformally, all of us enjoyed our meals. My empanada was a deep-fried pillow of cheesy heaven, and the potato ball was well-seasoned and large enough to share. Darlene thought her lechon asado was as good as any she’s ever had. Granted, the folks had nothing to compare their Cuban experience to, but they enjoyed their meals nonetheless. I was worried the spices might be too much for their (mostly) midwestern palettes, but Cuban seasoning is more mild than, say, Mexican or Cajun.
As far as the ambiance, it was quiet but for Bob Marley’s greatest hits playing in the background. Christina was personable and made recommendations, kept the drinks topped off and answered questions about various cooking techniques. They also have a bar, outside patio and (probably) live music on some nights.
The four of us got out of there for under $50. Darlene and I would definitely go back; during Happy Hour (5-7pm M-Th) all appetizers are 50% off. Take THAT, Easter ham!