If you look for real authentic Cuban food near Apollo Beach, you will quickly realize that the options are limited. But we found a flavorful Cuban restaurant that is just 4 miles from Apollo Beach Blvd and Hwy 41, off Big Bend Road. It’s not a food truck or hole in the wall, it’s a real Cuban cafe that you simply have to try!
To be completely honest, I had never even tasted Cuban food before. However, my wife went to school in Miami and has a Latin heritage, so needless to say she has had her fair share of Cuban food and knows the difference between what is real and what is not.
Authentic Cuban Cuisine
Just a short 4.4 mile drive from Apollo Beach Blvd off Big Bend Road in what is technically Riverview, is a lovely restaurant called Little Habana Cafe. But don’t let the new strip mall atmosphere fool you. When you walk in the front doors of Little Habana you are emersed in what can only be described as Cuban charm. From the warm family-like greetings from the staff through to the decor, you feel like you are sitting in a cafe somewhere in Cuba.
The atmosphere is only a part of the dining experience, so we quickly dived into the menu. We were submerged into a whole new world of flavors, and dishes that made our mouths water. I was worried about things being too spicey or what certain dishes were like, so I was asking my wife questions one after another because I was too embarrassed to ask our waitress.
I got over my fears easily when our waitress patiently and passionately explained the dishes I was inquiring about. The love for her family cuisine was so evident and the details that she shared didn’t make my meal decision much easier. Not because the information wasn’t helpful, but rather that the dishes all sounded so delicious, that it was hard to come to a definitive choice.
Our Cuban Food Experience
I had what is called “Fricase de Pollo”. It is a stewed chicken, which comes with rice and fried sweet plantains. The chicken was so moist and tender that I have no idea how they got it out of the pot and onto the plate without it completely coming apart. When I say tender, you have to take my word for it. It’s like nothing I have ever eaten before. The rice was perfectly cooked and the fried sweet plantains brought the whole dish together with sweet and savory flavors impacting your mouth together. If you don’t like really spicy dishes, this is one to try. It was so good.
My wife likes spicy, so she decided to get the Pollo al ajillo, which is a chicken breast in a spicy garlic and wine sauce, served with rice and black beans. She thought the chicken was flavorful and bright and the best Cuban cuisine she has ever had. It was tender and super moist and swimming in the delicious sauce. But she wouldn’t stop about the black beans. They were extremely creamy with a unique tangy flavor to them that perfectly balanced the flavor of the rice and the chicken. It brought the entire dish together.
The bread though! They brought out their freshly baked Cuban bread that was buttered and seasoned, then seared on the grill. I could have eaten an entire loaf of this stuff if my stomach could handle any more than we had already eaten. Every dish we had, as well as every order we saw going to other tables, were large portioned. You will not go hungry after eating at Little Habana Cafe, that we can assure you.
But if that wasn’t enough, we also had the flan dessert. What a perfect way to end a perfect meal. Smooth, rich and creamy.
Little Habana Chef Story
Yes, the Cuban food at Little Habana Cafe was incredible, we can attest to that. The staff was warm and inviting, let alone helpful and gracious, but there is another reason that you need to try Little Habana and that’s the story. Chef Al and his wife Tanya are local owner/operators of this amazing Cuban restaurant and the heritage that they bring to their craft is felt in every bite.
Habana originated in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, where Tanya & Al are from. Chef Al has been in the restaurant business all his life except during his military career with the air force. He has a culinary and hospitality degree and is simply amazing at what he does. Tanya has been self-employed since 1989 and used to own a couple of flower shops in Union City and Weehawken New Jersey, but now runs the restaurant with her husband, bringing authentic Cuban cuisine and true hospitality to the Apollo Beach, Riverview and Tampa area.
We highly recommend Little Habana. We know that you will be impressed with the flavorful food and warmed by the welcoming staff. Let us know what you think.