Food Critic Friday – Habana, Costa Mesa, CA

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2014/07/18 by nikkiledford

After a long hiatus, Food Critic Fridays are back. Geoff and I are back at it with our restaurant reviews, so if you’re in one of these areas and hankering for some gluten free goodness, you’ll have some idea of where or where not to eat.

I was dying to try a place called Habana in Costa Mesa. My love of Cuban food runs as deep as my love of plantains. I hadn’t found a place with truly awesome plantain dishes since our last visit to Barrio Star in Golden Hill, San Diego, so I was excited. Habana did not disappoint. Among it’s highlights were TONS of flavor, a romantic setting, very nice waitstaff, and a cool location in a hip little urban marketplace. This eatery proved to be fun, delicious, and inspiring.

Here’s the lowdown on the food/drink:

* italics are Geoff’s comments

menu drinkCaipirinha

A tad bit sweeter than a NorCal margarita (tequila.sodawater.lime). I loved it.

drinky 1

Mango Jalapeño Margarita

Great, but not as amazing as I’d hoped. I might be a little bit biased here because I’ve pretty much perfected my own version of a jalapeño tequila drink at home (inspired by the good people at South of Nick’s in San Clemente, CA). But it was still very good.

Ahi Tartar with Crispy Plantain

This was absolutely delicious. It was flavorful but not overpowering at all. I loved that you could taste the freshness of the fish and the flavor of the plantains which was bland and crunchy without being boring; A great vehicle for the tartar. Complete agreement here. Plantains can easy be too bland or too sweet – these walked the tightrope perfectly and complimented the fish well. II could have just had this and it would have been worth the trip. It’s that good.

drinky 2


Red Sangria

Very dry but in a good way. I’m not a huge fan of sweet drinks. This sangria was good but not mind-blowing… I would have been more satisfied with a simple glass of Malbec.


Pink Sangria
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go for white or red sangria so the waitress suggested I try a blend of the two as a compromise. Unfortunately, this ended up tasting like a compromise. Pick red or white and go with that.


Ropa Vieja with Black Beans, Buttered White Rice, and Fried Sweet Plantains

Shredded Beef with lots of spices. Not too salty. Rice was perfect. If all rice tasted like Habana Rice, I would eat it everyday. Even the black beans were a nice texture with the whole meal. I could quite easily OD on fried plantains. Lucky for me, they only put 3-4 pieces on my plate. So I walked out alive.


El Primo Puerco with Mashed Potatoes and Collard Greens with Bacon

Amazing through and through, I was disappointed that it ended. The pork was seasoned in a way that was unexpected, exciting, and delicious. Mashed potatoes are generally treated as an afterthought in most restaurants. But in this case, they were so good that they almost could have stood as a dish on their own. Recommended.



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Stopped by @lazyacresmarket_encinitas and grabbed this tonic to keep my immune system solid while my little guy fights a cold. I'm not gonna lie, it doesn't taste that good, but has some crazy good ingredients and so far I'm keeping all the germs from taking me down 👊🏻 Not upset about my breakfast situation.
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Need another reason to make your own? 
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This batch had a touch of vanilla and cinnamon and I can easily control the amount of saltiness.
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