Short Order: Pablo's Havana Cafe
Pablo’s Havana Café offers Central Ohioans an exceptional taste of traditional Cuban cuisine. Opened by Pablo Taura in December 2018, the eatery in a strip mall near downtown Powell features meat-filled sandwiches served on locally baked Cuban bread, as well as hearty plates of expertly prepared pork, chicken and beef. The restaurant’s filling dishes are comforting; best described as the type of scratch-made concoctions cooked with heart that you’d expect at a family’s Sunday supper.
It’s obvious that Taura is a natural in the kitchen. He left a decades-long career in operations and accounting to open the eatery, which honors his mother and grandmother, both outstanding home cooks who he says taught him everything he knows.
The shop’s trademark offering is the El Cubano sandwich ($5–$9) made with house-roasted pork, honey ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. A key feature of an authentic Cuban sandwich is that it comes perfectly pressed, resulting in a crispy exterior. That describes the El Cubano here, and like most sandwiches on the menu, it’s available in three sizes. Homemade soup, french fries or Pablo’s sweet or savory plantains can be added alongside for a few dollars more.
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Of the entrées, my favorite is the picadillo ($12) which pairs mildly seasoned ground beef with white rice and a cup of hearty black beans. Diners choose french fries or plantains on the side. Taura offered to cook the picadillo “Miami-style” for me, which incorporates green olives, capers and raisins. The beef’s seasoning had substantial depth, and I relished the sweet and savory notes from this regional take on the dish.
Both versions of the shop’s fried plantains are stellar. The maduros ($4), fried once after maturation, delicately balance a darkened exterior with the plant’s naturally honied, moist interior. The tostones ($4), young green plantains fried, flattened and fried again before serving, are denser and drier. They come with an olive oil garlic sauce.
The shop offers three soups ($5): sopa de pollo (chicken soup), frijoles negro and frijoles Colorado. I tried the frijoles negro (black bean) and the frijoles Colorado (red bean) soups, which were both thick and complex. The Cuban red beans featured heat in each bite. Don’t pass up a steaming cup of café con leche ($3) and a piece of creamy house-made flan ($4) to end your meal.
9685 Sawmill Rd., Powell