I’ve never been tempted by restaurant “dare” items. The “Can-you-eat-this?” steak or the “so-big-that-you’ll-get-your picture-on-the-wall-if-you-eat-it-in-one-sitting” burger always seemed more appetite-killing than appetizing.
My opinion on that hasn’t changed. And, no, this isn’t a column—written from the ER—where I announce that I took on such a challenge. But I did recently invest in the CrockTail Platter ($22.99) at Taste of Havana (815 Broad Ripple Ave., 559-4369), the Cuban counter-service restaurant that opened in August. And I’m glad I did.
Yes, if you eat this delicious 2-footer—loaded but not overstuffed with roasted pork, ham and cheese—by yourself, you get your photo on the wall (there’s only one there so far). Instead, I opted to dine with a friend and, together, we took care of three-fourths of it, taking the rest home to eat later. A pair of drinks and an ample supply of yucca and plantain chips, FYI, are included in the cost, making it a relative bargain.
It’s all very, very good, thanks to fresh ingredients, a cook who knows proportions, and wonderful, slightly sweet media noche bread.
There are other worthy options at Taste of Havana. The traditional Cuban sandwich, on the menu here as the El Cubano, comes in three sizes ($10.99, $8.49, $6.50) and contains layers of roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and just enough mustard to flavor but not overwhelm. Less familiar may be the Elena Ruth ($8.50), a surprising sandwich where strawberry preserves accent turkey and cream cheese. The name refers to a perhaps apocryphal story of its namesake, who would repeatedly request the combo at an all-night restaurant in Havana. You might find yourself just as hooked.
Black Bean Soup ($2.50/$4.25) provides a subtly delicious starter. And whether you have room or not, I strongly suggest investing in a few Pastelios ($1.90 each). These housemade delights—puff pastry filled with cream cheese, guava and other fruit—could become my favorite grab-and-go treat on the Broad Ripple strip. Just be careful if you try to eat these flaky treasures in your car on your way to a business meeting.
With all the attention in Broad Ripple focused on chain businesses encroaching on the locals, it’s nice to see that a mom-and-pop joint—actually a pop-and-daughter joint—can still find a home along its main drag. That it can offer food that doesn’t duplicate what’s already available—and do it with such warmhearted attention both to the food and to customers—is even better.
I’ll happily Havana-ther meal there soon.•
Last in a month-long series of full-flavored restaurant reviews.