I've eaten in most of the Cuban restaurants in Fort Lauderdale; most of them are ultra-casual in not-so-good neighborhoods, so the opening of a new "chain" Cuban restaurant in Pembroke Pines caught my eye enough to convince me to drive the 25 miles our west to try it out.jump-->
Everything is hard to find in this shopping center, which is sort of like the village at Gulfstream in that way. It's in the space previously occupied by Stir Crazy, right across from Brimstone at the Valet.
It's a big place; they've tried to create an atmosphere of pre-Castro Cuba when Havana was the equivalent of Las Vegas and a major tourist destination. There are lots of leather booths, big fans and interesting decor.
Havana 1957 Interior
Like most other restaurants, they have clueless hostesses, one of which tried to seat me at a bad table in front of the bar in an empty restaurant. "the place is empty", I pointed out, "can I get a booth please". Please don't take the table given to you in empty restaurants, people; restaurants need to understand that people in small parties are paying full price also.
Tables include water service and a bucket of Mariquitas (aka Plantain Chips).
Havana 1957 Water
They do the hard sell on liquor here; my server was more interested in selling me a drink than taking my order. When it was clear is wasn't happening, she shifted to food service mode.
I ordered Iced tea, and was informed that they didn't have unsweetened. I thought about just sticking with the water, but ordered the sweetened tea. If I had known that it came in a can I would have passed; the bad thing about cans is 1) Too Much Sugar and 2) no refills. All restaurants in South Florida should have fresh Iced Tea, particularly in the summer. >
Havana 1957 $4.75
The tea was WAY too sweet; I ended up diluting it by more than 50% with the water. With about 2/3 water it was sweet enough, which made up for the lack or refills.
The menu here is about the same as every other Cuban restaurant, even their breakfast is pretty ordinary. Ropa Vieja (flank steak braised in a tomato sauce) is a favorite, so I ordered that with a cup of black bean soup. The soup came out right away.
Havana 1957 Black Bean Soup
It didn't look much different than a bowl of black beans, except that it was mostly liquid. It was nicely seasoned and simply delicious; with none of the sour cream or tortilla strips you get from the fake chefs on Las Olas. Simple and good.
Music was booming and authentic: "A Toda Cuban Le Gusta", Rhythms Del Mundo, and Yaye Boy. Service was a bit overbearing; my server asked me how everything was too often and the busboys were too anxious to remove things from the table; such as my napkin, leaving me without one. I had to fetch another from a nearby table.
No bread service here; the food came out in about 10 minutes.
Havana 1957 Rice and Beans
A big load or rice and a bowl of beans along with a heaping serving of the Ropa.
Havana 1957 Ropa Vieja
Putting this stuff all together makes for a major meal.
Havana 1957 Ropa Vieja
The seasoning in the ropa was nice; I'd like to get more peppers and onions but that's pretty rare in my experience. I was going to bring half of this home, but I ended up eating all of the meat and the beans.
I was done eating and my server wasn't in sight, so I decided to make a Men's room trip since I had a long ride home. When I returned, my table was completely clear; the water and tea: gone. So my server comes over and starts pushing the dessert and coffee and I just ask for my check. She sensed something was wrong, and I mentioned that they should really wait until after I paid to clear my table, since I would have liked to finish the tea. She offered me another, but I declined as I wanted to go. She returned with the bill with a 10% discount, which was an acceptable way to handle it.
The bill was a bit more than I expected, mainly because the can of iced tea was $4.75. Iced tea isn't listed on their menu, so order something else, or just drink the water.
My overall impression here is positive; in fact I wish they'd built this on Las Olas in place of either the Lobster Bar or Grille 401. Expensive drinks but fairly priced food that is as good as you get in the little cafes, it's a nice(r) place to eat Cuban Food with a big bar as well. This place is a winner.