Havana Bistro & Cafe

on on .

Havana Bistro platter

This is not a review of Napa Venezuelan Cafe. True, it’s also not a review of four thousand or so other restaurants in the area, but those restaurants aren’t the one that I set out to visit the other day. Napa was my destination, however, even though I showed up at a time that the website said it would be open, it was not.

Luckily, right next door, Havana Bistro & Cafe was. So in I popped.

As the name suggests, Havana is actually two venues, a bistro on one side and a cafe on the other. What’s the difference? It’s subtle, but suffice to say that on one side of the place you order from a menu on and the other side you choose from among prepared dishes that a staff worker plates up for you. Again you ask, which is the bistro and which is the cafe? I have no idea, but you’ll be able to figure it out when you walk in.

I chose the dish-it-out side. The rules are very clearly stated at the start of the line: You choose the type of meat you want from among the available varieties, such as roast pork, stewed chicken and ropa vieja, then the type of rice you prefer (white, yellow or congri), and then two sides. I chose the roast pork on congri with yuca and red beans.

And then I watched in marvel as the young woman behind the counter started piling up the container with my selections. It was a tremendous amount of food, so much so that when she tried to close the cover of the takeout container she had to use a couple of pieces of tape so that it wouldn’t spring open.

The roast pork was wonderful — and more tender and I could have eaten it with a spoon. The rice and beans (and more beans) were good, too. Only the yuca was a bit of a disappointment. Usually yuca is heavily doused in a garlic sauce. This yuca was not. In fact, it wasn’t doused in anything. It was basically just starch. But I added some of the hot sauce that was offered at the cash register and sprinkled it liberally over everything. Perfect.

And talk about a cheap meal at $6.66. No, let me change that: Talk about a couple of cheap meals, because I retaped my container and saved the leftovers for another meal.

If I’d known that Havana Bistro & Cafe would be such a pleasant experience, I would have made it my destination in the first place.

Havana Bistro & Cafe is at 7579 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando (it’s on the northeast corner of the intersection with Sand Lake Road and in fact faces Sand Lake Road). It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-420-7278.

Havana Bistro interior