Cafe Habana

The boyfriend and I had walked by Café Habana a few months ago when we were walking to LES. Café Habana is located on the corner of Prince Street between Elizabeth and Mott Street. This little restaurant is really quite small, with only 8 table-for-two’s + 3 booths + 7 or so bar seats. Most of those table-for-twos are a bit smushed so it can definitely be a right squeeze during prime dining hours.

Since we had a free afternoon, we decided to stop by for lunch. We actually arrived around 10:50am, which was still during breakfast service. Café Habana starts lunch service at 11am so we got a seat and ordered a small size of chorizo to munch on until lunch started. Our waitress was perfectly okay with us just chilling out for a little bit and didn’t rush us.

Once 11am rolled around, we gave us the lunch menus – but we both already knew what we wanted. Fellow Yelpers have hyped up the Mexican Style Grilled Corn ($4.25) so we knew we had to try it. Each order comes with two large corns that are smothered in mayo and then topped with cotija cheese and chili powder. Our corn came piping hot. I can honestly say that the corn definitely lived up to the hype. The moment I bit into the corn it was like my taste buds exploded. The mayo made sure that the cheese stuck to the corn without falling all over the place. The mayo was warmed up by the hot corn and made each bite smooth and delicious. Even as we continued our meal, I still kept thinking about the corn! It is a bit spicy if you’re biting right onto the chili powder, but it was still so good!

The boyfriend and I decided to split their Cuban sandwich since we heard it was quite big. The Cuban sandwich ($9.75) features roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles inside pressed Parisi’s bread along with a side of fries. This sandwich was huge! Just by eating one half of the sandwich, I was already full. The bread was very crunchy on the outside yet soft on the inside. The cheese melted as a result of the hot meats and held most of sandwich together. The only problem I had was my roast pork, or really pulled pork, started to fall out of my sandwich while I ate it. But in general, my sandwich was very flavorful. 

We also decided to get a side of tostones, or fried bananas. The tostones ($3.25) were very crunchy and crispy. In fact, if I didn’t previously know what they were, I wouldn’t have guesses they were fried bananas. I couldn’t help munching on these along with the fries while we ate our sandwich halves.

I was really wowed by the grilled corn. The grilled corn really was the highlight of the meal. The Cuban sandwich was good, but I feel like I’ve had better. The pig’s head sandwich that I had at the Cannibal from Madison Square Eats was a lot better. I liked their use of a crunchy flatbread kind of bread better. Our service was pretty good. We did wait a while before getting waters. Therefore, I’m going to give Café Habana 4/5 stars. I will definitely be back for the grilled corn but I will probably try another entrée next time.

Quick Tip: The bathroom is a bit of a tight squeeze. If you’re planning on visiting Soho, just use the restrooms at the stores there.

Madison Square Eats

Madison Square Eats is a month long outdoor event where around 24 restaurants and food vendors gather in Madison Square Park to sell their delicious foods. Madison Square Eats took place between September 23nd and October 21st. They opened daily from 11am to 9pm and gathered a very large crowd around lunchtime and dinnertime.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit this food haven until the second to last day of the event. We arrived around 1:00, which was right smack in the middle of the lunch rush. The line for one vendor was so long that even after you ordered, there was a 30-minute wait for your food! 

Our first stop was Roberta’s Pizza, which was highly recommended by various food blogs. They have a pizzeria in Williamsburg, Brooklyn but moved their stove out to Madison Square Park for this event. They have a mobile wood-fired oven next to their booth and they make all their pizzas the moment you order them. The wait for the pizza was about 15 minutes, because of the large line. The actual time it takes for the pizza to cook is only about 2 minutes because the oven is so hot. We decided to try their Bee String Pizza, which has spicy sopresetta over mozzarella and drizzled with chili oil and honey. The result was a pleasantly spicy pizza that crunched nicely when I bit into it.

Our next stop was The Cannibal. They also have a restaurant, but on the East Side in Manhattan. The Cannibal specializes in meats and sandwiches. The boyfriend decided to go with their Pig’s Head Cuban Sandwich. It sounds somewhat gross, but I can promise that it definitely does not taste gross. The bread was crunchy and easy to bite into. The slow roasted pig’s head meat was tender and worked perfectly with the thinly sliced house-smoked ham. The gruyere cheese was melted until it blended into the bread, holding the entire sandwich together. I would definitely recommend paying a visit to the restaurant to try this sandwich out.

After devouring the sandwich, we walked around and browsed through the various vendors. Cuzin’s Dozen is another vendor that we tried because I was lured in by the idea of freshly fried mini doughnuts. They have this cute little contraption that drops the mini doughnuts into the fryer. The doughnuts then float around in the fryer until they reach the end, where a mechanical sieve pulls the doughnuts out. The freshly fried doughnuts are then put into a bag and shaken with some powdered sugar. I have never had freshly fried doughnuts before, so this was a new experience for me. These doughnuts were soft and tasty!

The highlight of the day came from Red Hook Lobster Pound. They have a food truck that travels throughout Manhattan as well as a restaurant in Red Hook. They specialize in lobster and shrimp rolls, but since I’ve had them before, I decided to try something new. I decided to go with their Lobster Mac and Cheese. Their Mac and Cheese is prepared differently then most and I give them major props for doing it in such a way. First, they put cooked macaroni into a container and add the lobster and cheese sauce. The container is then shaken to mix the ingredients. Afterwards, the mixture is transferred to a cup, where cheese is sprinkled on top and then burnt with a fire-torch. 

When I walked back to our table, the boyfriend and our friend was astonished that such a tiny cup cost $9. But the moment I opened the lid, I discovered exactly why. The presentation of this mac and cheese was perfect. The slightly scorched cheese on the top was a terrific sight to the eyes. When I spooned into the mac and cheese, there was no resistance. Almost every bite of this mac and cheese contained a chunk of lobster. I even found two lobster claws in my cup! The way RHLP prepares dish by separating the macaroni and the sauce made sure that the cheese did not congeal and make the macaroni too heavy to eat. The macaroni also retained texture, instead of becoming too soft as it soaked up cheese sauce. I am very glad that RHLP has a restaurant because I know this mac and cheese is something I will definitely be back for.

All of the vendors that I tried also have restaurants, which make eating all of these foods again very easy. We don’t have to wait for the next Madison Square Eats to pop up to eat them. I definitely recommend giving these restaurants a try – especially the Lobster Mac and Cheese!