A Bee-View of the Drive – Havana Restaurant

by admin - May 23rd, 2012.
Filed under: Commercial Drive Restaurant Reviews. Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , .

Welcome to one of the most popular passtimes on the Drive – waiting in line for a table at Havana’s! If we took a poll of all the guests who have stayed with us at the Bee & Thistle Guest House, our little Vancouver B&B, we suspect that a large majority of them would  have eaten at least one time during their stay at the Havana Restaurant. This funky little restaurant is located at 1212 Commercial Drive, only a couple of blocks up from the Bee & Thistle.   The long queue of people on the sidewalk almost every day, particularly if the sun is shining (even in winter), is a testament to the fact that Havana’s is a great place to hang out, has one of the best patios and arguably offers some of the consistently best casual food & drinks on “the Drive”.

According to their website, Havana’s opened in 1996, with the concept of creating a restaurant, art gallery and theatre that would blend into the diverse cultural neighborhood of Vancouver’s Commercial Drive.  They describe their food as “Neuvo Latino Cuisine” served with “authentic Cuban cocktails” in a “funky, distressed, casual” atmosphere.  We are sorry to say we have not yet had the time to visit their art gallery or theatre but are definitely intrigued and hope to do so soon. We have heard good reports of the theatrical productions and musical events that take place in the theatre.

We were quite pleased with ourselves when we strolled down to Havana’s on a beautiful May evening and managed to score the very last seat on the patio in the sun! Gotta love the Drive on a sunny day!  All the tables were full of happy people sipping sangria (apparently very popular) and other cool drinks, chatting, and nibbling on an array of very appetizing looking plates of food.   Even though the place is hopping, the waiter was very attentive and we had a menu in hand within moments.  Difficult choices!  Menu items included tapas ranging from Ensalada Mista @ $7.00 to West Coast Mussels with chorizo sausage & tomato or coconut lobster broth & smoked chilies @ $15.00, a variety of tacos @ $14.00, salads from $13.00,  entrees from Angel Hair Pasta @ $14.00 to Steak Fritos @ $19.00. Also available are several interesting sounding sandwiches, wraps and burgers with optional yam fries and chipotle mayo. They do have an intriguing breakfast menu, which we will never sample, of course, as long as we run a B&B which keeps us rather busy at breakfast time!  We finally decided to share a couple of plates, so opted for chicken tacos (Fresh Sauteed chicken breast with coconut-jerk, lettuce, guacamole and pico de gallo)@ $14.00 and Ropa Veija (braised tender beef with Cuban rice, fresh vegetables and beef jus) @ $18.00.   The tacos were not huge portions but sufficient and filled with pleasantly spiced freshly cooked chicken breast chunks and veggies, almost like a fajita.  I wouldn’t say they were amazing, but they were good, fresh and nicely presented. The Ropa Veija (which I chose because I couldn’t resist after seeing the heaping plate on a neighboring table!) can only be described as comfort food.  Slightly spicy, lots of veggies and rice and very tasty! Michael teamed his share up with their chilled local beer special, which he appeared to enjoy immensely.

This is a local hang out where we would be very happy to hang out on a very frequent basis, if only our waistlines and our crazy busy B&B would allow!   The atmosphere is fun, the patio is great (on chilly days, they boost up the rays with heaters), and the food is casual but fresh and good.  TripAdvisors give Havana’s 4 1/2 stars, UrbanSpooners 4 stars, and Yelpers (interestingly) give it more moderate average of 3 1/2 stars.   As for the guests of the Bee & Thistle – we have not had one guest say they didn’t like it, though a few have said it was “okay”. One Australian visitor went there every day of his stay with us!   Whenever our guests ask for a recommendation of a restaurant that’s close by, good, medium priced, good, fun & casual, and good – Havana’s is included among our top choices.  We love that that this funky little restaurant is part of our neighborhood!