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  • Post #31 - February 22nd, 2009, 10:45 pm
    Post #31 - February 22nd, 2009, 10:45 pm Post #31 - February 22nd, 2009, 10:45 pm
    my family and i recently enjoyed a lunch at habana libre as well. we were supposed to meet up with mhays and team sparky prior to the mac and cheese event, but that didn't work out, so we went solo.

    we loved the sandwiches (pan con lechon, cubano) but thought that the apps (empanadas, croquettas, platanos maduros) were just ok and kind of pricey considering the portions were small.

    i'd go back for the great, well-priced sandwiches, though.

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  • Post #32 - February 25th, 2009, 5:07 pm
    Post #32 - February 25th, 2009, 5:07 pm Post #32 - February 25th, 2009, 5:07 pm
    Habana Libre's fried stuff (I tried croquettas, empanadas & puerco frita) is indeed magical. Their ceviche was pretty good too...very "homestyle" in both looks and flavor, which was pretty cool.

    However, their lechon (both the entree & in the cubano) had a very, very strong "porky" taste, compared to what I'm used to. Is this normal? If so, anyone know what makes it have such a strong taste compared to "normal" (say, bought from Jewel & roasted in a home oven) roast pork?

    The strong flavor of the pork took me by surprise, and turned me off a bit, in the first bite of the cubano sandwich. Fortunately I forced myself to take another bite, and another, because after a few bites the flavor had really grown on me, to the point that, after the last bite, I mourned its absence a little :). I think the bread, pickle, ham, etc. helped a lot, because I wasn't able to get over the overwhelming "porkiness" of the plain lechon.

    They were out of oxtail the night I was there, so I'd like to try that next time. And the now-legendary jibarito. And the aforementioned magical fried stuff (especially the puerco frita...YUM). And of course, the pollo frito, which makes me drool just from looking at pics of it on the first page of this thread. Looks like I'll have to remember to wear stretchy pants.

    Edited because I forgot the pollo frito...good catch Dan!
    Last edited by Khaopaat on February 25th, 2009, 10:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  • Post #33 - February 25th, 2009, 7:19 pm
    Post #33 - February 25th, 2009, 7:19 pm Post #33 - February 25th, 2009, 7:19 pm
    Khaopaat wrote:Habana Libre's fried stuff (I tried croquettas, empanadas & puerco frita) is indeed magical.

    Don't forget the Pollo Frito!

    -Dan
  • Post #34 - February 28th, 2009, 1:35 am
    Post #34 - February 28th, 2009, 1:35 am Post #34 - February 28th, 2009, 1:35 am
    I just returned from a night out that started at Habana Libre. What a gem of a spot this is. Went with two friends who cannot wait to get back there.

    Appetizers - beef empanadas were very good, but the guava and cheese empanadas were gooey-sweet treasures. THese are one of the more unique items i've eaten in a while. Both types were fried to absolute perfection and managed a crisp exterior, but soft and moist interior. It's been said they've got frying down to an art and you simply cannot refute that statement based on the evidence of the night.

    Main course - We started with the jibarito. It was a decent rendition, but i think it paled in comparison to the offering a Papas Cache Sabroso (spelling?). In fact, I was a little disappointed because i'd heard alot about it and was craving a good jibby.

    - Pollo Frito - for a fried chicken fiend like me, it takes alot to say i've been to the crispy bird mountaintop. But now I have been. This is garlicky, crispy, juicy and divine. It is unlike any other i've had, and was the clear star of the night by all 3 diners' accounts. There was not a lot of talking when we got our hands on the chicken. . .just grunts and incredulous shaking of our noggins.

    - Steamed Red Snapper - we thought we'd ordered a fire-grilled version, but we got a whole snapper in foil that had been steamed with vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and squash. I was upset that it wasn't the crispy dish i'd expected, but it quickly proved to be a tasty and substantive course. The meat slid off the bones and was dense, but tender, with a pleasant and mild flavor. I'd opt in the future for a more adventurous version, but this one was no slouch.

    Dessert - coconut flan and orange-mango sorbet were both refreshing and soothing to a stomach that had been pushed to its physical limits.

    Overall - i'd consider this place one of my top 10 eating experiences of the past couple of years and will be back in a very short time. I know my friends will not have it any other way.
  • Post #35 - September 3rd, 2009, 4:23 pm
    Post #35 - September 3rd, 2009, 4:23 pm Post #35 - September 3rd, 2009, 4:23 pm
    I had lunch at Habana Libre today. I was very happy to see the place full to capacity at 1:00 on a Thursday afternoon. There was a huge party of 12 plus all other tables filled. We were lucky enough to get our order in ahead of the 12 top. This place hasn't lost a beat. I split some croquettas, an empanada, a jibarito and a cubano with jazzfood. All of it was spot on. Their house made green hot sauce was flavorful and packed a good dose of heat, to boot.

    Sometimes a place drops out of your normal rotation and when you go back the food is so good, you can't remember how you ever let that happen in the first place. Habana Libre is one of those places for me.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #36 - October 7th, 2009, 3:58 pm
    Post #36 - October 7th, 2009, 3:58 pm Post #36 - October 7th, 2009, 3:58 pm
    Trying to end my day with some good old fashioned food porn, I knew I'd find something drool-inducing in the Habana Libre thread. Nothing I have to add hasn't been said already in the thread, so I'll just second the high accolades for the pollo frito, the excellent cuban sandwich, delicious jibarito, and, my favorite, the guava and cheese empanadas. And thanks to my similarly minded food porn photographers who made the front of my shirt wet today. I think I know what I'm having for dinner tonight....
  • Post #37 - October 7th, 2009, 4:21 pm
    Post #37 - October 7th, 2009, 4:21 pm Post #37 - October 7th, 2009, 4:21 pm
    amyliz wrote:Trying to end my day with some good old fashioned food porn, I knew I'd find something drool-inducing in the Habana Libre thread. Nothing I have to add hasn't been said already in the thread, so I'll just second the high accolades for the pollo frito, the excellent cuban sandwich, delicious jibarito, and, my favorite, the guava and cheese empanadas. And thanks to my similarly minded food porn photographers who made the front of my shirt wet today. I think I know what I'm having for dinner tonight....


    amyliz, apparently it doesn't take much for me either. Your post was just the reminder I needed that I don't have to go far for super yummy food. I think I'm going to head downstairs now and order my pollo frito. Thanks. :D
  • Post #38 - October 7th, 2009, 4:54 pm
    Post #38 - October 7th, 2009, 4:54 pm Post #38 - October 7th, 2009, 4:54 pm
    I have a new favorite in rotation at HL. On my maiden voyage I had their lechon asado and found it on the dry side. A year or more later I ordered lechon sub on the jibarito on a porkier day than a beefy one and it turned out succulent and garlicky with roasty caramelized edges. Now every time I order this dish it has the same excellent consistency and is some of the best lechon I've ever had!
  • Post #39 - November 10th, 2009, 5:14 pm
    Post #39 - November 10th, 2009, 5:14 pm Post #39 - November 10th, 2009, 5:14 pm
    Highlights for me from last night's Small Household Food Exchange dinner at Habana Libre: (hopefully others will chime in with more comments.)

    * Vegetable empanadas
    * Camarones al Ajillo
    * Oxtail in creole sauce
    * Jibarito
    * Cubano

    I enjoyed the pollo frito, but I was not enamored with it. The piece I had was almost too fried. The flavor was full of garlicky excellence though. Dinner at Habana Libre followed by the bartender exchange at Bar DeVille made for a great night.
    -Mary
  • Post #40 - November 15th, 2009, 4:29 pm
    Post #40 - November 15th, 2009, 4:29 pm Post #40 - November 15th, 2009, 4:29 pm
    I was at Habana Libre the day before the food exchange went down. Early Sunday dinner, and I have mixed feelings. On one hand I love Cuban food and it's great to have this place within a few minutes of my place. On the other hand, I didn't feel like anything I had here was distinctive. I've not been to Cuba but I've been able to eat a good deal of Cuban in Miami. Nothing I had at Habana Libre would compete at even an average place down there. I think of Habana Libre about as good, maybe a little better, than the typical Cuban restaurant in any small city. There was one in Durham that I frequented when I lived there that was about as good.

    So, solid, but nothing great. Two other factors probably also contributed to my evaluation of my meal here. First, the weather was so beautiful and warm, and I probably wasn't in the mood for heavy Cuban food. So much of it is fried and very heavily seasoned. I concede environmental conditions weren't ideal. From a service perspective, I also thought they could've done a better job, and this colored my impressions. We showed up just shortly after 5 pm and made it very clear from the onset that we'd have to be out the door by 6 pm. My friend needed to catch a flight. We were told it would be no problem, but our food didn't arrive until 5:50 pm. We had asked about it multiple times and were told "two minutes" a few times over. I consider this unacceptable. Be upfront, if I have a time restriction, communicate it to the kitchen, keep me updated. Don't leave me hanging. My friend was close to walking out he was so frustrated with the service interaction (or lack thereof).

    Ate the gamut of items: tostones, fried yucca, empanadas, ropa vieja, masas de puerco. Pretty standard items. I thought the food was pretty tasty, just heavy. I also thought the ropa vieja was subpar. Much too soupy. Also, I didn't see vaca frita on the menu. What's up with that? A favorite of mine to be sure. Since my meal I've since learned what I should order next time. The place is relatively cheap, so I'll be back to check out some of these highly touted items.

    Again, I'm a big fan of Cuban food, I find it a very soulful cuisine and one that has a certain emotional resonance for me. I'm predisposed to like hole-in-the-wall Cuban places--Oasis on Key Biscayne, anyone?--but this place was a bit underwhelming on my first visit. Hopefully it'll come around.
  • Post #41 - November 16th, 2009, 10:22 am
    Post #41 - November 16th, 2009, 10:22 am Post #41 - November 16th, 2009, 10:22 am
    BryanZ wrote:I've not been to Cuba but I've been able to eat a good deal of Cuban in Miami. . . . First, the weather was so beautiful and warm, and I probably wasn't in the mood for heavy Cuban food. So much of it is fried and very heavily seasoned. I concede environmental conditions weren't ideal. . . . My friend was close to walking out he was so frustrated with the service interaction (or lack thereof) . . . What's up with that? A favorite of mine to be sure.


    Some modest observations about Cuban food,

    Cuban food in Cuba is, by all accounts, terrible. (I hope to find out soon.) Tampa and Miami keep the tradition of this cuisine alive.

    All three places tend to be warm. Like so many great tropical foods, Cuban can be robust, but a great Cuban meal certainly isn't inconsistent with 90 degrees and humid.

    Studied lack of attention is highly authentic.

    Vaca frita is not such a standard Cuban dish that one should expect it to be on every Cuban menu.

    Do try the other Cuban GNRs. I saw that you considered Argyle somewhat unsavory, so maybe skip Marianao -- tremendously authentic and delicious, but not everyone's cup of cafe con leche.

    Finally, two Cuban abuelitas, tremendous home cooks both, just gave me their most over-the-top, hyperbolic endorsement of any single Chicago Cuban restaurant food item, ever: the ropa vieja at 90 Miles (Clybourn) was not bad. Don't know about the yuCa or other items.
  • Post #42 - November 16th, 2009, 10:57 am
    Post #42 - November 16th, 2009, 10:57 am Post #42 - November 16th, 2009, 10:57 am
    Finally, two Cuban abuelitas, tremendous home cooks both, just gave me their most over-the-top, hyperbolic endorsement of any single Chicago Cuban restaurant food item, ever: the ropa vieja at 90 Miles (Clybourn) was not bad. Don't know about the yuCa or other items.


    I'd say the ropa vieja at 90 Miles is exactly that — not bad, but not great, either. I found it pretty boring.

    I'm still looking for a respectable ropa vieja in Chicago. (I haven't tried it at Habana Libre.)
  • Post #43 - November 16th, 2009, 11:04 am
    Post #43 - November 16th, 2009, 11:04 am Post #43 - November 16th, 2009, 11:04 am
    So what's the characteristic of a really great ropa vieja? I've had it plenty of places here and I can't say that the distance between the best and the worst seemed all that wide to me.
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  • Post #44 - November 16th, 2009, 11:28 am
    Post #44 - November 16th, 2009, 11:28 am Post #44 - November 16th, 2009, 11:28 am
    olivetti wrote:
    Finally, two Cuban abuelitas, tremendous home cooks both, just gave me their most over-the-top, hyperbolic endorsement of any single Chicago Cuban restaurant food item, ever: the ropa vieja at 90 Miles (Clybourn) was not bad. Don't know about the yuCa or other items.


    I'd say the ropa vieja at 90 Miles is exactly that — not bad, but not great, either. I found it pretty boring.

    I'm still looking for a respectable ropa vieja in Chicago. (I haven't tried it at Habana Libre.)


    At least most of the Cuban cafes in Chicago have ropa vieja. That and the vaca frita query reminded me -- the truly ubiquitous Cuban cafeteria staple, picadillo, is a rarity on Cuban menus here. Few do this dish correctly anywhere nowadays (using a blend of gound ham and pork along with the hamburger, for starters).

    Back to the ropa vieja, it's been some time since I've had it, but Cafe 28 had a quite correct and respectable version.

    A quite similar Guatemalan dish is hilachas, which appears at El Tinajon, a place that has held stady in Roscoe Village for years, unwavering in its Guatemalan-ness (viz, "revolcado: pork stew made with tongue heart liver and ears, served with rice"), and mostly invisible to this board.
    Last edited by JeffB on November 16th, 2009, 11:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #45 - November 16th, 2009, 11:40 am
    Post #45 - November 16th, 2009, 11:40 am Post #45 - November 16th, 2009, 11:40 am
    Mike G wrote:So what's the characteristic of a really great ropa vieja? I've had it plenty of places here and I can't say that the distance between the best and the worst seemed all that wide to me.


    I'd say a proper dose of decent olive oil and flavor, from fresh, vibrant spices, esp. laurel. Too many times the spices and acid in this this long-cooked dish are muddied and the body (which at best can be a little unctuous) has been drowned in a thin, watery broth. Many would also agree, ropa vieja needs to be finished at the table with an acid, the best being sherry vinegar. Makes a huge difference.
  • Post #46 - November 16th, 2009, 11:45 am
    Post #46 - November 16th, 2009, 11:45 am Post #46 - November 16th, 2009, 11:45 am
    That makes sense. What I've had has always seemed long-stewed, comfy (which is why I've ordered it when I have), but not bright with spices/acid.

    And yeah, if I've ever had picadillo with anything other than supermarket hamburger in it, I missed it.
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  • Post #47 - November 16th, 2009, 12:29 pm
    Post #47 - November 16th, 2009, 12:29 pm Post #47 - November 16th, 2009, 12:29 pm
    I'd say a proper dose of decent olive oil and flavor, from fresh, vibrant spices, esp. laurel. Too many times the spices and acid in this this long-cooked dish are muddied and the body (which at best can be a little unctuous) has been drowned in a thin, watery broth.


    I've never been certain what the ideal texture of ropa vieja should be, but one of my issues with the version at 90 Miles (at least on the night I had it) was that the meat was mushy instead of tender. (Is that what you mean by "a little unctuous"?) And "muddiness" in the spicing does seem like a common pitfall.
  • Post #48 - November 16th, 2009, 1:07 pm
    Post #48 - November 16th, 2009, 1:07 pm Post #48 - November 16th, 2009, 1:07 pm
    olivetti wrote:
    I'd say a proper dose of decent olive oil and flavor, from fresh, vibrant spices, esp. laurel. Too many times the spices and acid in this this long-cooked dish are muddied and the body (which at best can be a little unctuous) has been drowned in a thin, watery broth.


    I've never been certain what the ideal texture of ropa vieja should be, but one of my issues with the version at 90 Miles (at least on the night I had it) was that the meat was mushy instead of tender. (Is that what you mean by "a little unctuous"?) And "muddiness" in the spicing does seem like a common pitfall.

    Yikes! The dreaded Jello Meat that many BBQ purists dread. :)
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat
  • Post #49 - November 16th, 2009, 4:55 pm
    Post #49 - November 16th, 2009, 4:55 pm Post #49 - November 16th, 2009, 4:55 pm
    C'mon, do you really think I meant it should be "mushy"? :wink: The "unctuous" comment was in the context of my suggestion that good olive oil be used and in contrast to the problem of watery ropa vieja. It was about the sauce and not the meat. Let's say the beef should be pretty soft, but still toothsome, like a good pot roast. Maybe they didn't brown it first, cooked it too long, who knows.

    Way worse than mushy ropa is the dreaded stringy ropa.

    As an aside, tasajo (dried, shredded beef) is typically prepared the same way, and tends to stay firmer for the obvious reason that it started out like jerky. It's rarely seen. The real stuff (tasajo) is traditionally horsemeat, BTW.

    And, PS, both recipes originally were a way to use the same cut for multiple dishes (in the tradition of, say, hash or turkey soup). Step one: boil the meat for a soup, eg, ajiaco. Step 2: remove most of the cooked-to-hell meat and add stuff to make ropa vieja.
  • Post #50 - November 16th, 2009, 9:02 pm
    Post #50 - November 16th, 2009, 9:02 pm Post #50 - November 16th, 2009, 9:02 pm
    C'mon, do you really think I meant it should be "mushy"? :wink: The "unctuous" comment was in the context of my suggestion that good olive oil be used and in contrast to the problem of watery ropa vieja. It was about the sauce and not the meat.


    Got it! I just wasn't sure what was supposed to be "unctuous," and don't generally think of it as a positive term. :wink:
  • Post #51 - November 16th, 2009, 9:11 pm
    Post #51 - November 16th, 2009, 9:11 pm Post #51 - November 16th, 2009, 9:11 pm
    olivetti wrote:
    C'mon, do you really think I meant it should be "mushy"? :wink: The "unctuous" comment was in the context of my suggestion that good olive oil be used and in contrast to the problem of watery ropa vieja. It was about the sauce and not the meat.


    Got it! I just wasn't sure what was supposed to be "unctuous," and don't generally think of it as a positive term. :wink:


    Welcome to LTHForum. We bathe in unctuous.
  • Post #52 - March 9th, 2010, 2:32 pm
    Post #52 - March 9th, 2010, 2:32 pm Post #52 - March 9th, 2010, 2:32 pm
    Mr. Pie and I and possibly some of his friends are planning to eat here Saturday night, 6ish. Is this the type of place where I should make reservations? Also, is it noisy in there?
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  • Post #53 - March 9th, 2010, 3:15 pm
    Post #53 - March 9th, 2010, 3:15 pm Post #53 - March 9th, 2010, 3:15 pm
    You might want to call them just to make sure they don't have a bunch of big parties coming in that evening. But normally, they are fairly empty at 6pm. I don't recall it being very noisy in there.

    By the way, I highly recommend the guava/cheese empanadas :)
    Last edited by DosaGirl on March 10th, 2010, 11:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #54 - March 9th, 2010, 9:57 pm
    Post #54 - March 9th, 2010, 9:57 pm Post #54 - March 9th, 2010, 9:57 pm
    Pie Lady wrote:Mr. Pie and I and possibly some of his friends are planning to eat here Saturday night, 6ish. Is this the type of place where I should make reservations? Also, is it noisy in there?


    When the room fills, it's extremely loud in there. Get the fried chicken - it's spectacular.
  • Post #55 - February 20th, 2011, 8:35 pm
    Post #55 - February 20th, 2011, 8:35 pm Post #55 - February 20th, 2011, 8:35 pm
    Not a lot of posts about breakfast or egg dishes here. Good for you all who've seemed to avoid that, as the breakfast I had at Habana Libre a few days ago was terrible. Way overcooked eggs, mushy rice, and a couple of decent croquettes. Stick to lunch and dinner.
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  • Post #56 - April 25th, 2011, 9:17 pm
    Post #56 - April 25th, 2011, 9:17 pm Post #56 - April 25th, 2011, 9:17 pm
    Is my friend wrong?

    We are supposed to join them for dinner here tomorrow.

    I couldn't find a menu but reminded them that Cuban & non-animal eating, don't generally go hand & hand.

    I've been told that I will be just fine, but I'd rather be ready, like Scarlett O'Hara before the BBQ, if necessary.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #57 - April 26th, 2011, 5:48 am
    Post #57 - April 26th, 2011, 5:48 am Post #57 - April 26th, 2011, 5:48 am
    pairs4life wrote:Is my friend wrong?

    We are supposed to join them for dinner here tomorrow.

    I couldn't find a menu but reminded them that Cuban & non-animal eating, don't generally go hand & hand.

    I've been told that I will be just fine, but I'd rather be ready, like Scarlett O'Hara before the BBQ, if necessary.



    There are a few things on the menu that will fit the bill. http://www.habanalibrerestaurant.com/#!menu (caution, annoying music)

    The guava and cheese empanadas are outstanding, although I don't think that is enough to make an entire meal. There is also morros & cristianos, but again that's a side dish. There is a whole fish dish, but I don't remember that being all that great.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #58 - April 26th, 2011, 8:28 am
    Post #58 - April 26th, 2011, 8:28 am Post #58 - April 26th, 2011, 8:28 am
    stevez wrote:
    pairs4life wrote:I couldn't find a menu but reminded them that Cuban & non-animal eating, don't generally go hand & hand.


    There is a whole fish dish, but I don't remember that being all that great.


    Must have missed the memo regarding fish losing their animal status ;)
  • Post #59 - April 26th, 2011, 2:44 pm
    Post #59 - April 26th, 2011, 2:44 pm Post #59 - April 26th, 2011, 2:44 pm
    Jamieson22 wrote:
    stevez wrote:
    pairs4life wrote:I couldn't find a menu but reminded them that Cuban & non-animal eating, don't generally go hand & hand.


    There is a whole fish dish, but I don't remember that being all that great.


    Must have missed the memo regarding fish losing their animal status ;)


    That's funny. I know. I have to get more & more graphic with what I don't eat lest I end up with a tuna fish sandwich.

    Thanks Steve.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #60 - April 26th, 2011, 4:15 pm
    Post #60 - April 26th, 2011, 4:15 pm Post #60 - April 26th, 2011, 4:15 pm
    pairs4life wrote:
    Jamieson22 wrote:Must have missed the memo regarding fish losing their animal status ;)


    That's funny. I know. I have to get more & more graphic with what I don't eat lest I end up with a tuna fish sandwich.

    Thanks Steve.


    No problem. Based on my experience, you wouldn't have liked the fish anyway. :wink:
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven

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