Cafe Habana (Royal Oak, MI)

While visiting Carol’s relatives in Michigan, we decided to meet up with my college friend Ben up in Royal Oak. He recommended Cafe Habana, which is one of the older Cuban places in Royal Oak (with other locations in Ann Arbor and Traverse City).

Cafe Habana has quite the nice Cuban-decorated interior, with a heavy emphasis on the chandeliers and Cuban-themed travel posted. However, the menu is less Cuban than “Latin American”, with Tacos Pastors and Beef Chimichurri alongside the Ropa Vieja and Cuban Sandwiches. Don’t get me wrong, I like Argentinian food and Mexican food, but they are both very, very different in their ingredients, flavors, and cooking techniques. Indeed, a major strike against Cafe Habana is that they’ve gone and reinforced the “Cuban food must be like Mexican food since they both speak Spanish” stereotype that I’m all too familiar with. Sorry, that’s been a long-standing gripe of mine. I’ll get off my soapbox.

Despite the multi-ethnic nature of the menu, I opted for the Cuban Sandwich (with some yuca and tostones as appetizers), while Carol opted for the Ropa Vieja. My friend Ben? He opted for the Tacos Pastors. I’ll try to forgive him (in his defense, the tacos did indeed look well done). To drink, I opted for a nice Belgian white beer from the brewpub next door (how’s that for international cuisine?)

To be honest, I was fairly underwhelmed with the appetizers. Both were dry and starchy, and the mojo criollo served with them excessively sweet.

But, as far as my Cuban Sandwich, I can’t complain. This certainly isn’t Miami, but the sandwich was rather well executed, with sliced pickles, a good crisp on the bread, and a nice mix of both pork and ham. Not bad, and very good considering how far from Cuba we were. Carol’s Ropa Vieja was quite good as well, although with a milder and much more tomato-ey sauce than I’m used to.

All-in-all, despite my complaints with their wide menu (and if they renamed themselves as “Latin” or Pan-American, hey, I’d be a fan), I had quite a decent lunch here, and wouldn’t be against coming back and trying out some of the rest of their menu.

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