Ropa Vieja with Congri rice and fried plantains @ Havana’s Pilon

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Havana’s Pilon is a tiny restaurant serving authentic Cuban food that opened in the Downtown core a couple of months ago. Located on Second just east of Madison, across from the Mad Earl, the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Owner Maryalis Gonazles promises on the restaurant’s website to bring Cuban food to Downtown while saving her customers money and time. Based on my first experience today, she has lived up to that promise.

I checked out the restaurant’s menu before I went down there, and I really appreciated the photos of the food since I had never heard of some of the dishes before. However, I let Foursquare choose my meal. My friend Justin had left a tip about the place recommending the ropa vieja with rice and fried plantains. I decided that sounded like a fine lunch, although I selected the Congri rice (rice with black beans) rather than the regular rice as a side.

As I mentioned, the restaurant is tiny. I counted 18 seats, and you’re going to be real cozy with your lunch and dinner mates if you dine in. Since I live less than a block away, I asked for my food to go. With tax, it was only $8.19, very reasonable for quality Cuban food. They had my order out to me in only about 5 minutes. I expected a 10 to 15 minute wait and was pleased to get my food so fast.

Ropa vieja is shredded beef in a light tomato sauce with green and red peppers and olives. I first had this dish several years ago when the Rumba Room had a lunch buffet, and loved it. Havana’s Pilon’s ropa vieja was every bit as good, and the Congri rice complemented it well. The fried green plantains were similar in taste and texture to fried bananas, and their sweetness was a nice counter to the flavor of the shredded beef and rice. Overall, I was very pleased with my lunch in terms of both taste and value. I will be back soon. Next time I will probably try the picadillo, a Cuban-style hash made with ground beef.

I’m very happy this restaurant is here and I wish them success. If you haven’t tried Havana’s Pilon yet, you are missing out on some delicious food.