We had a chance to interview Havana Central’s General Manager to find out more about the flavors that are on the horizon for Ridge Hill.
The Best Mojitos and Cuban Cuisine in Yonkers
You have two Havana Central restaurant locations in NYC. One in Times Square and one on the Upper West Side. Why Ridge Hill?
Up until April of this year, we had 3 locations in NYC, with the 3rd being in Union Square. Union Square was our first location and we outgrew it as there were about 70 seats and a small bar. It no longer fit within our business model. Now, the issue with other Manhattan locales fitting into our model (200+ seats in the dining room, 30+ seats at the bar) is that restaurants of that size command very high rents and it becomes very risky.
In order to expand as a company, we eventually had to look beyond our backyard and Monarch at Ridge Hill is seem-ably a perfect fit. It is going to be a great space and our most beautiful restaurant to date. It is outside of our backyard but still in close enough proximity so that we can use the same vendors, managers, etc.
On top of that, with players like Brio, Yardhouse and Cheesecake Factory in the mix, it should turn into quite the destination for restaurant goers. These are the types of operations we want to model ourselves after as we continue to build our brand and deliver a best in class experience.
Can we expect the same Cuban cuisine or will there be a new customized menu?
To elaborate on what I began to say, we want to model ourselves after the top players in our field. If we are going to be successful doing this, we need consistency. A person dining at Havana Central in Times Square should have the same experience as those dining in Ridge Hill and wherever our next location is, and our next one…and so on.
Will there be new Havana Cuisine specials for Westchester? We’d really like to see Tuesday dollar empanadas and Happy Hour stick around!
The dollar empanada program as well as our Happy Hour are two things that people identify with Havana Central, so those will definitely be a part of every Havana Central. As a company, we are always looking at specials and promotions and as long as they add great value and strengthen our brand, they will receive consideration. But the short answer is yes, please join us for Happy Hour and dollar empanadas, there is nothing better!
For those who don’t already know, what characterizes Cuban food?
Cuban food can be characterized by its flavor profile as having a base of sofrito. Cuban sofrito is made up of stewed peppers, onions, garlic, oil and spices. This base is added to rice, meat, beans etc and it gives it that certain flavor profile. Another popular spice used in Cuban food is cumin and also surprisingly, Cuban food is almost never spicy.
The other thing that characterizes Cuban food is the experience. It’s the mojito, the music, the decor that all add to the food and make it an amazing experience. There is not a more fun way to go out to eat.
What is your favorite dish that Havana Central serves?
My favorite dish at Havana Central happens to be Vaca Frita which literally means, “fried cow.” It’s marinated shredded steak, stir-fried with ajicito peppers and onions and served with cilantro and spinach infused rice topped with a fried egg. It’s delicious!
If I’m a first timer to a Havana Central restaurant, what can I expect?
You can expect to be welcomed with a warm smile wherever you are in the restaurant, expect a lively atmosphere, knowledgeable staff, best in class service, authentic Cuban cuisine. You will feel like you have been transported to America’s original favorite playground – Pre-War Havana, Cuba. It is truly an un-rivaled dining experience.
Describe your perfect meal at Havana Central from appetizer to dessert.
The perfect meal at Havana Central starts with the company, the more the merrier is truly the case at HC. Start with a pitcher of our classic mojitos so everybody can join. Cuban food is best shared and starting with some “for the table” appetizers like an empanada sampler, maduros (sweet plantains) and tostones (green plantains). Then I would move to some of our authentic Cuban dishes like arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), ropa vieja (beef with peppers and onions) or vaca frita (stir-fried skirt steak). Finish off the meal with our dessert sampler which has tres leches (3 milk cake), churros (latin doughnut sticks) and Cuban flan.
Tell us more about this mojito we’ve heard so much about. Over 700,000 sold, is it really the best? What makes a mojito at Havana Central the best?
The mojito at Havana Central is the best one that I have ever had, all fresh ingredients, real sugar cane, real mint, real sugar, limes and a secret ingredient. Try one for yourself please, we love hearing how good they are.
Should we expect the same variety of live entertainment at the Havana Central in Yonkers? Do you have anyone slated to appear?
We have a rotating music plan at our restaurants so it will be most of the same bands that you see in the city. We will decide on a schedule of live music as we get closer to an opening date.
We admire your efforts of going green, will you be buying locally from the Westchester, NY area?
We clean with a lot of environmentally safe chemicals and the restaurant will be fitted to be 95% LED lighting. As for our vendors, they buy locally in season when available.
What can we do as consumers of Havana Central to help in going green?
If you know of any local food and beverage vendors, we are always welcome to having them come in for a tasting.
When is opening day? Havana Central is slated to open in Westchester in April.
Will catering also be available from the new location and if so what can you tell us about the Havana Central catering menu?
Catering will be available at the new location. We can cater your event either on premise or off-premise and can completely customize the experience. We have done luncheons for as little as $10 per person as well as open bar, premium dinner parties for as much as $100 per person. We encourage you to speak to our catering team if you are interested as there really is no party too large or too small. The number is 212.398.7447
Destined to Become an Authentic Cuban Food Experience
Looks like Havana Central will be the place to dine come April 2012! It should be the perfect addition to Westchester’s lifestyle center. We certainly are looking forward to trying a little piece of Cuba! By a “little piece” we actually mean everything on the menu! Perhaps we’ll have to take a preview trip to Havana Central’s other locations while we wait!
Thanks so much, Havana Central for taking the time to speak with us about this exciting new locale for Cuban cuisine!