Thanks to recent policy changes, traveling to Cuba has become a whole lot easier. But Austinites don’t have to travel far to experience the culture and cuisine of the region. Just head down South Congress Avenue and you’ll come across Habana–a hidden gem among tall oak trees where the cultural highlights of Cuba come alive.
The sights and smells will transport you to another world. So do yourself a favor and experience a slice of everyday Cuban life right here in Austin.
Serving Austin for 15 Years
Some of you may be more familiar with Habana’s second location on Sixth Street, which was open from 2005-2010. But if you thought your favorite Cuban restaurant was lost and gone forever, fortunately you were wrong. Their SoCo location has endured the test of time.
Habana has had roots in Austin since 2001 when husband and wife duo, Ron and Yasbel Flores, opened as a way of celebrating Yasbel’s heritage. A native of Cuba, Yasbel wanted to share traditional Cuban meals with Austinites, and the restaurant has been going strong for 15 years.
Located right next to The Great Outdoors, Habana has South Austin charm with a Latin flare. As you pull into the parking lot, you’ll notice four cabanas lining the front of the restaurant. The thatched roof structures are hidden by the tropical and native landscaping, making each a mini-oasis despite being located next to the busy street.
Habana’s Cuban Cuisine
Something to remember when heading to Habana is that they offer everyday Cuban cuisine. Think of it as Cuba’s version of comfort food, similar to our Texas comfort food. You can expect simple–yet rich–foods packed with lots of flavor and lots of fried goodness. Not only do they offer an amazing Cuban sandwich, but also a variety of traditional dishes such as rice and beans, fried yucca and plantains galore!
And did you know plantains can be prepared in about a million different ways? Try the mariquitas (plantain chips), tostones (fried plantain disks), maduros (mature plantains which are slightly caramelized and sweet) or even Mofongo (fried plantains mashed in a mortar).
As far as dessert is concerned, you can never go wrong with the award-winning tres leches, but I’m also a huge fan of the classic Cuban dessert, arroz con leche: rice pudding.
The Drink Selection
Rum is king is Cuba, so I’m sure you can imagine the quality of Habana’s signature drinks. I personally can’t get enough of their mojitos, but you should also try the traditional Cuba Libre and plantain daiquiri, or indulge in a rum flight.
Exposure to Cuban Culture
Habana celebrates the daily lifestyle of Cuba! You are guaranteed to catch some Buena Vista Social Club playing in the background or other traditional mambo, rumba or son music. You can even find cigars on their menu–tobacco is still a big part of everyday life in Cuba. Cigars aren’t my thing, but I love the ambiance they give, and the history they portray. Habana doesn’t highlight only one aspect of Cuban culture; it tries to highlight ALL aspects of Cuban culture!
So if you’re not ready to board a plane, but are in need of a Cuban fix, head over to South Congress and enjoy a mojito and Cubano.
2728 S. Congress Ave. – Website
@jpino9 wants to know:
What’s your favorite Cuban dish?
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