Wow, what a find.
First they bring a basket of fresh bread. Its got a crunchy crust and its really soft inside. Its sliced and a melted garlic butter is brushed over the top. Very addicting.
The empanada is one of the best Ive ever had. Its large, maybe about 7 inches long by about an inch thick. Its served with plantains.
The outside of the empanada was a little more done than I wanted, as it was crisp and a little over-browned around the edges. But as a result, the inside was piping hot and man it was good. They use ground beef, and it seemed to be of very high quality as the beefiness really came through. It was seasoned nicely, and what really punched up the flavor was the use of green olives. That added tanginess made me salivate for another bite the minute I swallowed the last one. It was gone poof in moments.
The plantains were a little plain. Not bad, just nothing special.
The ropa vieja was also quite good, but my appetite had been slightly damaged by the empanada and bread. It was prepared to the desired stringy consistency, and was served in a tomato sauce. In the past Ive had it with a different, darker sauce. But this sauce worked and I liked it. The meat is served with a mound of rice, a cup of black beans and a few more plantains which by this time I was sick of. It was way too much food. I almost finished the meat and barely touched the rice. Only half of a plantain was eaten.
The above, with a diet coke was $14 after tax before tip. A good deal in my mind.
They have a pretty extensive menu of appetizers, sandwiches, salads, soups, meats, poultry and seafood. The lunch specials each day include pork chop, roasted chicken, ground beef in Creole sauce and paella Valenciana. The lunch specials are $6.95.
I also notice they have roasted suckling pig on Saturday and Sunday. I might go try this.
This place is much better than El Floridita and Versailles on all levels. The food is comparable but the atmosphere is not as nice as Habana.
The servers and owner were very gracious, too. All around, this is a great place.
Havana Club Restaurant & Bar
3831 N. Peck Road (N of 10 fwy, just N of Ramona)