Bloomfield Cuban

Havana Sandwich Cafe, originally uploaded by bloomfieldguy.

When we restarted our search for a house in Bloomfield earlier this year, we made an effort to explore some of the restaurants here and in the surrounding area (trans: Montclair) and were delighted to come across a solid assortment to choose from, both in price and cuisine, and so far have only experienced a handful of duds, including the State Street Grill (overpriced, glorified diner), Nevada Diner (bland diner food) and Stamna (beautiful Greek decor; bland, uninspired food).

Among the places we’ve enjoyed are Aki (unpretentious sushi in a relaxed setting), Vinnie’s Pizzeria and Restaurant (solid Italian food with decent pizza), Señorita’s (great Mexican food and margaritas), and even the Glenwood Diner (solid breakfast) and the IHOP on Bloomfield Avenue (great off-menu specials with a southern twist; kids eat free Mon-Fri evenings), next to Watsessing Park. Our favorite to-date, though, has been Cuban Pete’s in Montclair, a high-energy restaurant that combines authentic Cuban food with a sense of style and atmosphere that avoids feeling like a chain.

Tonight, after a busy weekend of grilling in the backyard and polishing off leftovers, we wanted something quick and simple and familiar and decided to check out Havana Sandwich Café on Franklin Street, on the recommendation of a fellow transplant via a comment elsewhere on the blog. Despite the inexplicable pictures of Yankees lining one wall, his recommendation was on-point and we were convinced of it when I ordered a croqueta preparada (a pressed ham and cheese sandwich with ham croquettes) for my wife which wasn’t on the menu and they knew what it was and could make it. I ordered a steak sandwich for myself, a tamal to share as an appetizer, a tres leches to share for dessert, and a can of Materva for me and a Jupiña for my wife.

While waiting for our order — true to family-owned restaurant tradition, the service was casual and not without entertainment — I grabbed their last two beef empanadas which, despite clearly having sat in the hotbox for a few hours, were quite good. When we got home, we tore through our sandwiches, both delicious and big enough to save half of each for another day, and polished off the tamal (cold but tasty; still good after reheating) and the tres leches (pretty good, not too soggy), a dessert I’d never liked before having Cuban Pete’s far superior version and is now a favorite as a result.

The restaurant itself is cozy but not claustrophobic, able to sit approx. 10 people without feeling too crowded, but its main appeal is for an impulsive night of takeout when you’re looking for some good Latin comfort food, perhaps after your weekly trip to Stop and Shop or a visit to Blockbuster, both right across the street. We definitely plan to make it a regular local stop and highly recommend it, even if you’re not in the neighborhood.

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