I haven’t had much opportunities to try Cuban food in San Diego — a taco shop always seems to get in the way — but I was intrigued when I discovered a new Cuban restaurant open in the Gaslamp.
548 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
Havana 1920 is promoting itself as a bar/ restaurant specializing in Cuban dishes and tropical drinks featuring lots of rum. It certainly adds some variety to the neighborhood, and a good Cuban sandwich.
The restaurant is upstairs from Prohibition Lounge and seats about 80 people. There’s live music most nights, an acoustic duo playing Latin music the night I went there and a cool vibe.
The waitress wanted to seat us in front of the band, but we opted to sit in the back closer to the bar so we could talk. Oh and drink.
I knew I wanted to try the daiquiri, which comes on the rocks or up. I chose mine up, which is how Ernest Hemingway apparently liked it. I liked mine. It was nice and limey and tart but I’m not sure I tasted much alcohol ($12).
My friend ordered the Hotel Nacional ($12), which had rum and lime juice and pineapple juice and an apricot liqueur. He liked the taste but didn’t feel the overwhelming flavor of alcohol either.
We switched to beer for our food courses — a Cuban lager called Hatuey. Yes, we could taste the alcohol, and it was a food-friendly brew, and there was some food I felt friendly towards — the appetizers.
The $20 Bocadito Platter was a good starting point for exploring the menu. The fried plantain chips were thin, crispy, and addictive. There was jostling as we each tried to grab our share; the ham and cheese croquettes were crispy, creamy, and cheesy. We ordered three more at $3 each.
The picadillo-stuffed potato was flavorful, thanks to a filling of beef, potatoes, olives, raisins and garlic. I wish I had had the picadillo for my entree. Instead, I opted for the Ropa Vieja ($20), meat stewed with peppers and onions in a tomato sauce. It was good, but lacked the depth of the picadillo.
The best part of the meal was the Cuban Sandwich ($16). It’s a huge loaf of bread cut in three sections and filled with ham, roasted pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. That sandwich ensured a return visit.
The flan was sweet and slightly caramelly, but the mango sorbet and wafers were a nice, tangy topper to the meal.