I admit it; I’m not an “early adopter” in the eyes of the marketing community. I’d rather wait till the rest of you give that new place a try and see if it survives that critical first six months. Perhaps I’ve been whacked a few to many times by the chefs “new creation”. Given the barren wasteland of chow-less-ness along 422 west of Phoenixville, we felt inspired to give Havana Joes in Pottstown a try and I must say in brief, it was a great experience. Don’t miss it. (They don’t have a web-site, so look on West High street—you can’t miss it)
In this day and age of corporate “nuke and puke platters” served by untrained, disingenuous staff that could care less if you’re there or not, this place is the real deal—genuine honest chow, a great staff of friendly people and a lively atmosphere in which to dine. Plus, reasonable prices. The menu of tapas, entres and a few specials allowed many choices for us all. We began with a few (BYOB) beers and ordered the kids a chip and dip tapas and a chicken/cheese quesadilla for starters. The youngest pup (who is my strong willed one) was visibly upset when the waiter offered us the option of kids Mac-n-cheese, which I promptly declined. I insisted we should try the offerings rather than the old “kids meal stand by”. After all, if kids in Cuba can eat it, you can too.
OK now here is the key point. At some places, the management or staff would look upon us as “atmosphere wreckers, unruly or tempests” screwing up the dining experience during service by being stern and deliberate with our kids over rejected Mac-n-cheese. But not here. Kathy, the warmest and friendliest “front of house” person I’ve ever encountered, (and I’ve eaten worldwide) made a concerted effort to assure the pups that the chow was good and they should relax, draw some doodles and be patient for their parents. A few bites later, calmness prevailed. Well done Kathy!
My wife had the special of scallops over a lightly cheese sauced jalapeno pasta ($21?) which was excellent. This was accompanied by simple salad with mango accented vinaigrette which was also tasty. The scallops and cheese combination were a risky move in my world, pulled off exceptionally well. Delicate seafood with industrial strength cheese sauce could be dangerously treacherous chow, but Havana Joe (yes, there is a Havana Joe in the kitchen) had attained just the right balance in the dish and served up a very generous portion— 8+ scallops, easily. Good portions we were told were a standing order here. For me it was the empanadas. Make a good one and their great; make a bad one and you’re toast. These were SUPERB! Very fresh, nicely crisp, divine meat filling and HANDMADE with a simple salsa/dip on the side.
With a nice chat going with the genuinely friendly staff and owner (a good sign that she was there during service) we ordered a mango flan desert and watched as the kids inhaled. The mangos were perfect. The flan was gone by the time I lifted my spoon so you should go and be the judge. Now I admit I‘m not even close to an authority on Cuban cuisine, but the offerings appeared to be unique, and rooted in what one would imagine as true to form. I didn’t see a traditional Cuban sandwich though, so maybe I’ll have to become a good customer and politely ask for one. Which no doubt will be delivered as authentically as possible with a hearty and genuine “glad to see you, my friend”.
Please go and try it. Lord knows the area needs good chow.