Restaurants have it tough. We are at a place where people have become educated about where they eat. We look at the menu, décor, ratings, and pictures like we’re checking out a potential date. I can’t tell you what goes through my mind when I walk into a place and it doesn’t live up to the hype. The phrase, “That’s not how you looked on Facebook,” comes to mind.
When a group of friends said they wanted to get together at a Cuban place, I thought, “Here we go. Can’t wait to hang-out at some kitschy place and eat Americanized non-sense.” I was about to swipe left on this plan, if you get what I mean. Out-voted and super hungry, I parked my car at Roosevelt Field Mall and looked over at Havana Central. I’ll probably just get a burger.
Walking into Havana Central is like crossing over into Cuba. I scoped out the place: nice bar area, Cuban inspired artwork, good drink variety, large booths that can be enclosed with flowing panels. If nothing else, I know I can at least say that they got the décor right. I’m all about feeling transported by a great setting.
The manager recommended the Loco Coco Saoco, made with Captain Morgan Loconut, for a whopping $18. Hey, if you tell me I should try it, I’m going to take your word for it.
Unfortunately, my first one leaked from the bottom and I had to get a new one. I was told that this sometimes happens with these drinks, because they’re cut at the bottom and hollowed out. That’s just my luck, but no big deal. My only regret was not taking a drink before it was carried away. Finally, my new-and-improved coconut showed up and it blew me away! It is perfectly tropical and full of coconut flavor. I was really into what was happening, until my Loco Coco Saoco just seemed to disappear. I know what you’re thinking: she downed that big freakin' drink! Nope. There just wasn’t much in that coconut! If you’re going to charge $18 for a drink, it should be more than presentation. I was just sitting there with a huge coconut that does nothing more than look nice. I wanted to go out and sell it to make some of that $18 back. I mean, at least offer a spoon with the drink so that I can scoop it out! Bottom line: Why is this drink worth $18? It’s not. Thankfully, a new set of drinks and apps made me feel a lot less gypped.
The manager recommended that I order the Ropa Vieja, which is braised beef, peppers and onions for $19.95. As he described it, the skirt steak is marinated, shredded and cooked until it has a crisp sear. It’s served with cilantro rice, which is topped with a fried egg. Oh honey, you don’t have to sell it to me – just bring it to me.
This dish is what other skirt steak dishes aspire to become. The sear added such an amazing texture, and the combination of egg and cilantro rice made the world around me go silent. For just a few moments, it was just me and this gorgeous dish. Those in my party enjoyed their dishes, and they truly looked delicious, but I’m going to be honest, I’ll probably never know. As long as Ropa Vieja is on the menu, it will just be the two of us every time I visit. Despite the coconut drink, I’m saying yes to a second date.
Address: 630 Old Country Rd, Garden City, NY 11530