Dallas is a bit light on Cuban fare, but Ernesto Velez is doing what he can to change that fact. He is the former owner of Havana Social Club on Victory Plaza which specializes in mojitos and cigars, and for the past two and a half years Velez has been feeding the small masses that line up for lunch and dinner at Havana Café at 1152 Buckner Blvd. in the Casa Linda Plaza.
At Havana Café you will find authentic Cuban cuisine such as Ropa Vieja, a shredded flank steak simmered in special Havana’s criollo sauce, or Lechon Asado, a marinated pork leg with a Cuban mojo. And, of course, one of the finest examples of a Cuban Sandwich around made with roast pork leg, Swiss cheese and Serrano ham.
After the two and a half years Velez secured the space next to his restaurant and will expand in the next few months. With the new space Velez plans a bar area where he will offer Cuban tapas, or small plates, and have a full bar where he will whip up savory mojitos and others fantastic Cuban-style cocktails. And of course the plethora of coffees including the rum spiked Carajillo, or cafe con leche Cubano. Powerful coffees that will set your eyes ablaze with excitement.
We chatted up Velez a bit to find out more about his legacy restaurant.
Describe your journey to America.
I came to America in 1996 via Costa Rica after I had escaped Cuba playing music (trombone) with a Cuban show. My reasons were for economic purposes. A better life for my family in Cuba and my self included.
What was your experience with Havana Social Club?
Havana Social Club was a great experience, nothing then less then a dream come true. It was a combination of cigars and rum, two of Cuba’s finest exports.
Where do most of the recipes come from at Havana Café.
The recipes are a combination of old family traditions, which have been a Cuban staple since before my time.
What direction do you see Havana Café’s future in addition to the anticipated Mojito Bar?
Havana’s Café ‘s future is brilliant especially after nearly three years. My goal is to connect Americans and Cubans through our authentic cuisine in addition to popular Cuban cocktails like the Mojito, and a soon to be a fan favorite mango passion daiquiri.