Traveling In the Time of COVID – Havana – Because Sometimes Certain Cuisines are Better in Your Home Town

In several visits, I have avoided dining at Havana in Bar Harbor. Why? We live near Tampa where we can have authentic Cuban/Latin/Spanish food anytime at numerous restaurants, so it makes me really picky about this cuisine. I finally made reservations to please my husband, who loves Paella. Reservations were a must as we traveled during COVID fall which affected staffing and state of Maine had capacity requirements reducing how many patrons could be in the restaurant at a time. Had a little wait upon arrival, but not overly long.

The small front of the restaurant is deceiving. What was once a house, dining is spread out in several rooms including a garden area and what looked to have once been a garage or workshop. We walked through several rooms to get to our table in the garage area. Despite the separate rooms and required spacing of tables, the place was packed! Our table was in front of the glassed in wine storage room, but open to the room with some plexiglass separating us from a large table to our left which was filled with boisterous young people celebrating one of their birthdays, but no separation from the table to our right, which was probably a few feet away (but certainly not the recommended 6 feet.). Be sure to take a look at the wine storage area – the sight is mind blowing. (Wished I had remembered to take a photo of it.) My wine enthusiast husband was amazed at their selections. My husband ordered a 2017 Altos Hermigos Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, which I tasted and found to be full bodied and lush.

I love sangria and am a bit of a connoisseur, so I was hoping for some really good stuff. Believe me when I say I have had good and bad sangria. The best is made Spanish style – dry red wine, fresh cut up fruit (no fruit cocktail!), fresh squeezed fruit juice, a bit of grated cinnamon and absolutely no soda pop in it. The bonus is if it includes Spanish brandy in it. Imagine my shock to find that Havana’s sangria was non-alcoholic!!!! I opted for a traditional Cuban Mojito, another drink I am a snob about how they are made (mint properly muddled with sugar, fresh lime juice & slices, no scrimping on the rum and absolutely finish with club soda and not Sprite). It was an excellent choice, one of the best I have ever had!

Hubby’s starter was a beet and tomatillo soup followed by Paella entrée made with Maine seafood. My husband liked it but said it was more like a jambalaya.

Because I can’t eat very spicy food and I am allergic to mangoes and some other ingredients used in Latin dishes, it proved a challenge to find something on the menu. Our server was not accommodating to my dietary restrictions, wouldn’t ask if dishes could be modified and she didn’t offer any suggestions, except the Peruvian style roasted chicken without the jalapeno sauce.

I settled on a wedge salad. A tiny amount of cinnamon sprinkled on the tomatoes was a nice unexpected surprise. I let my husband eat the bread – herbed country style white & a blueberry cornbread, neither of which suggests Latin cuisine. They were served with a choice of dips, two of which were very spicy. I also ordered the Maine cheese platter – four different cheeses (2 of which were manchego and Bradbury Mountain Bleu), grapes (figs would have been more in keeping with the Latin theme), apricots and crostini. It was enough for 2 people so I could not eat it all and took some in a box.

I was not impressed by any of the desserts – No crème caramel or traditional flan on the menu that night. Husband was happy with good strong expresso.

Would I eat here again? Probably not. They do have an Argentine tapas outdoor dining area called Parrilla that is open during the warmer months so I might give that a try next time since I love tapas and grilled meats.

About J. Matlock, Director of Fantasies

Jeanette's wanderlust started as an Air Force brat crisscrossing the US visiting almost every state. Writing has always been a part of her life. While earning a BA in Journalism from the University of Central Florida, Jeanette found photography was the perfect compliment to writing. She is always on the outlook for what she calls "Right Time, Right Place" photographs that capture a once-in-a- lifetime moment. Her adult travels have taken her to Scotland, England, France, Switzerland and all over the US and she continues to crave going to places to experience adventure, great food and lifestyles. She has written travel journals for the web site IGOUGO.com to share her experiences to guide and encourage other travelers. Her descriptive writing style makes one feel as if they are there sharing the experience. Her love of writing is based on this simple truth: "When I am writing, I know that I am doing the thing I was born to do." (Anne Sexton).
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