I'd recently heard about a new Cuban Restaurant that recently opened in La Mesa, from reader and frequent commenter Reynila and My good friend and frequent contributor to Chowhound, Gayla. During a quick call to Habana I found out that during Happy Hour(between 4-6 pm) all appetizers are half price, and specialty drinks are $2 off! A good deal. Needless to say, we had a bunch of appetizers. All appetizer prices in the post, are the "menu" prices. To calculate Happy Hour prices, divide by '2'.
We arrived at approximately 430pm, and found Habana empty. The large dining area goes for a tropical feel.
After looking over the "Tropical" drink menu......
The Missus tried a Habanatini($7 - $5 Happy Hour). Kind of on the weak side, but ok overall.
We looked over the menu and started ordering. We decided on 5 appetizers, and ordered one entree to share.
The first appetizer to arrive were the Chicken Croquetas($3.95):
The croquettes were moist and fairly light, though I really could not taste any chicken. As a whole fairly unremarkable.
Beef Empanada ($3.95).
The empananda was quite large, and the exterior was nicely fried and crisp. The filling was pretty dry and the flavor was on the mild side.
The Maduros (Fried Plantains - $4.25), fried well, with a nice sweetness that wasn't cloying. Overall, quite nicely done.
Yuca Frita (Fried yuca), served with a "mojo" ($4.50). The Yuca was crisp on the outside, and moist on the inside. There was a mild sweet flavor to go with the slightly dense stachy interior. The "mojo" was a flavorful concoction. The menu said the yuca was served with a garlic sauce, but we were sure that there was some meat in the sauce. Our suspicions were confirmed when we asked what was in the sauce, and the word "pork" was mentioned. No wonder it was so tasty!
The Yuca con Mojo - the best dish of the night ($3.95). The boiled Yuca was served with a lemon-olive oil-garlic sauce that bordered on addictive. The sauteed onions added an almost sweet flavor to the dish.
We also ordered one entree to share. The classic Cuban Dish, Ropa Vieja($11.50), we ordered Arroz Morro and Papa Dulce Roja(Yams) as our "sides".
The dish was a disappointment. The Arroz Morro, supposedly black beans and rice simmered in wine was flavorless. The black beans were also very hard. The yams were nothing special either. The Ropa Vieja was dry and tough, and very mild in flavor. Of the four version of Ropa Vieja I've had so far, this is ranked at a solid "number 4".
Would I recommend Habana? I'd say if you want to go for Happy Hour, I would say that the food is a fairly good value. How can you argue with $2 appetizers? We probably be back to Habana for the Yuca con Mojo, and maybe try another Entree. Out total bill for the evening, for 5 appetizers, two specialty drinks, and one entree was $37. Habana also offers a Sunday Brunch:
I forwarded the photos of the menu to Jim the Brunchmaster.
One last item, our Server, Amy, was excellent. So nice and efficient.
Habana Restaurant & Bar
7777 University Ave.
La Mesa, CA 91941