We were hungry and we wanted to eat something that is really good. We wanted to eat something that would be local to New York or perhaps be something that we would not have at home. Since it was later in the evening, we decided we didn’t want pizza or burgers. We wanted to have something good. Really good. So what did we do?
We call my daughter back home in London, Ontario. Yes, we could have done this ourselves but having only phones on hand and limited data, we thought it would be better to just text her and ask her to find something for us. We gave her the location (near Time Square) and lastly, it had to be reasonably priced. We weren’t looking for food trucks and fast food places.
Within 10 minutes she emailed us the link to 4 different food choices. The first was a restaurant offering authentic Cuban cuisine half a block away from Time Square.
Cuban Food near Time Square – Havana Central
I had fond memories of eating Cuban food as I had patroned a Cuban restaurant 25+ years ago when I was on my first business trip to NYC. We checked Havana Central out on a few review sites and all the reviews on Trip Advisor were positive.
It’s funny when we headed down to the restaurant, we were walking around and could not find it. Truth be known, we thought it was another small restaurant that appeared to be closed,you cannot even imagine how disappointed I was. I thought it hard to believe that the restaurant was: (1) this small and (2) closed on a Wednesday night. Little did we know that all we had to do was look up and there it was, the large sign with a palm tree and Havana written in neon lights. The entrance is very non-descript but when you enter, its like stepping back in time to the 1950s. It is decorated with potted palm trees, soft mood lighting and a small LIVE band playing as soon as you walk in. There are large chandeliers, tables with families, couples and large groups gathering to have good food, good conversation and a good time.
My first suggestion is ask to sit in the balcony because it gives you an overall view of the restaurant and as the band begins to play, you may find it hard to carry on a conversation if you are too close. From that elevated point of view, you can see the bartender mixing delicious drinks (yes, get their signature mojito… no doubt about it… fantastic) or maybe a pitcher of Sangria (that too looked delightful). Our table was at the balcony and we could watch the evening unfold. As we had arrived after 8 pm, I would suggest that you make a reservation. Well worth the effort and you can do that online using OpenTable (see link below).
We started the evening with the Passion Fruit Mojito. It comes with a slender piece of sugar cane and a pink lady ‘pin-up stiWe started the evening with the Passion Fruit Mojito. It comes with a sugar and a ‘pink lady pin-up’ stir stick. So very 1950s.
Ordering tip: Make sure to savour it because its a $11.50 drink. Don’t be fooled by the menu saying its actually $10.50, unless you state otherwise, they will use the premium rum or liqueur and then you see the surcharge on the bill. Minor detail but that was the only thing that bugged us to be sure. We will pay… Just ‘tell us’ that you are adding a premium rum to it…
We started the evening with the Passion Fruit Mojito. It comes with a sugar and a pink lady pin-up stir stick. So very 1950s.
As we made our way to the menu, I could not keep myself from ordering the appetizer sampler.
There was ‘chicharon’, plantains (both savoury and sweet), corn, empanadas and chorizo. The most unique item for me was the corn on the cob that was slathered in mayonnaise and rolled in parmesan cheese (and bread crumbs – think). Very tasty though totally decadent – obviously.
I would highly recommend that you order this but know it is a shareable dish. Or just have this as a main course with a couple of drinks.
We did manage to order a two main dishes (the one was spilt in two). We had a Vaca Frita:
* VACA FRITA
Crispy Shredded Beef Marinated pulled beef sautéed until crispy with lime, ajicito peppers, garlic and onions. Served with cilantro-flavored rice and a fried egg.
The meat was divine, though a tiny bit on the dry side, but if you added some of the lovely cilantro sauce from the mixed platter, it was perfect. I absolutely loved the cilantro-flavoured rice. The friend egg on top was an added bonus but nothing special. If you don’t need it, don’t bother with it. This was a hearty dish and enough on its own. It was delish! Make no mistake, the beef was well seasoned and plentiful.
My good friend ordered a hot grilled chicken Cuban sandwich with sweet potato fries. To be exact, it was the:
EXTRAORDINARIO SANDWICH DE POLLO (Extraordinary Grilled Chicken Cuban Sandwich)
As you can see below, it was huge and it was full of a delicious combination of flavours. There was a grilled chicken breast topped with red peppers, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato, dressed with savory mayo. It is all grilled and then pressed (like a panini) to make it melt together.
Ohey Gooey delisciousness!
Overall our visit to Havana Central was a memorable experience. We love the atmosphere. We loved the music. We loved, loved, loved the drinks but most importantly we loved the food. I have already recommended it twice!
They have various locations but it was fun to go to Time Square after our meal. We were stuffed and walking around was well worth it after all we were in NEW YORK CITY.
Fun facts about Havana Central
Opened the first location: June 24th, 2002
Number of Mojitos sold: Over 700,000
Number of Empanadas sold: Over 1 million
Number of Cuban sandwiches sold: Over 800,000
They cook over 4,000 pounds of pork a year
They use over 130,000 limes a year – mostly for our Mojitos
Their guests eat over 40,000 avocados a year
Address: 151 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036, United States
Open Daily: 11:30 am – 12:00 am