International Dining 2011: Café Havana

Café Havana
West Jericho Tpke, Smithtown

Wise people start their weekends on Thursday nights. Those wiser still start them at Café Havana. It is ultimately a simply-decorated restaurant that delivers big on personality, food and ambiance. Three short years ago, Puerto Rican born Jose Maldonado Jr. paired up with Chef Ramon Perez, who hails from Cuba originally. The result is an eatery offering cuisine that is solid, well-textured country fare.

Similar to the cuisine of other Central and South American countries you may recognize—ceviche, paella, arroz con pollo—the menu is nonetheless distinguished by an assortment of authentic plates that will delight any meat lover. Chicken, steaks and pork are front and center, but do share the stage with seafood to an almost equal degree. Not surprisingly, whole fish, shrimp and scallops all make multiple appearances. And plantains, yucca and rice and bean options are never far behind.

Although the music, art and culture of Cuba are known to err on the fiery side, the food does not, making it very accessible to those with more delicate palates. The eatery is packed with festive congregations of nationalities, descending from countries both south, east and west of our own. And the music, ranging from live Cuban horns and congas to Latin DJ dance beats beckons from the dance floor to complete the scene. Those ready for a vacation, albeit one night, will rejoice about not needing to worry about passports and visas.

Star Ingredients:
Yucca, Plantains


Chicken Pincho
Think of a chicken kabob speared into pineapple. Sweet, tangy and juicy.

Yucca Mojo
Textured, firm yucca in garlic butter.

Plenty of white bread with sweet plantain butter.


Ropa Vieja
Juicy, tangy, zesty shredded beef in a tomato based sauce with chunks of onion and pepper.

Seafood & Chorizo Paella
Earthy, smoky chorizo meets peas, clams, mussels, lime and yellow rice.

Pernil Mofongo
Roasted pork in garlic and herbs—the ultimate peasant meal. Not refined, complex layers of taste but honest, stocky and wild.


Havanas Bananas
Banana fritters made crispy and crowned with powdered sugar and vanilla ice cream.

Coconut Pie
An “I can’t stop eating” coconut custard pie meets coconut ice cream.

Signature Cocktail: Coconut Water Martini
But the red sangria is outstanding and deserves the bragging rights. A pitcher will not be lost on parties of three or more.