From plantains to pork, from shredded beef to black bean soup, the tastes are genuine in this corner of the Market Building.
When I moved to Roanoke in 2009, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of international cuisine. Biscuits and country ham, stereotypically, I figured the city had down pat, but bahn mi or street tacos or a decent Cuban sandwich? That I assumed was the territory of my hometown, Atlanta, or other more metropolitan cities. To be fair, it took a little time for Roanoke to reveal itself as a food hub for the region, but in the five years I’ve lived here, the city has adopted slowly but surely an ever-changing multicultural skin.
When the City Market reopened in 2011, the future seemed a little bleak – few restaurants had signed leases and the ones that had were not quite ready to serve food. Fast-forward a few months to early 2012, though, and things were looking up. In January, Yordanys “Yordy” Rosenda opened Habana Café, a Cuban restaurant serving some of the favorite dishes of his home country. Occupying a corner spot of the Market, the café features both an order counter for the central food court as well as a small dining room and bar that is accessible from the outside. Painted a rich, bright red, the dining room is an inviting spot for dinner downtown and it’s hard not to love the whimsically repurposed Afro-Cuban drum bar stools.
The menu at Habana Café is fairly straightforward – a handful of appetizers, assorted sandwiches (perfect for the lunch crowd), main courses and two or three desserts. If you’re looking for a taste of a little bit of everything, the sampler with Masas de Cerdo Frita (fried pork), Camarones al Ajillo (shrimp with garlic), and Croquetas de Jamon (ham croquettes) is a good option. The fried pork is exactly as advertised – crispy, fried hunks of meaty pork – but I sorely missed the advertised but absent mojo sauce, a spicy, tangy citrus-garlic condiment common in Caribbean cuisine. The shrimp, however, was perfectly seasoned and cooked, and the croquettes stood up against some of the best I’ve sampled in Spain (though how can you go wrong with anything deep fried?).