Dining out in Cuban style

Little Havana's brunch delivers with authentic fare

August 22, 2002|By Robin Tunnicliff Reid | Robin Tunnicliff Reid,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

French toast does not sound like a traditional Cuban breakfast item. But Little Havana's owner, Tim Whisted, says he found it in a Cuban cookbook. And the two slices of batter-dipped, thick "Cuban" bread that we drowned in warm maple syrup were good enough to make us shrug off concerns about authenticity.

Everything else here seemed pretty darn Cuban, from the Roy Lichtenstein-style photo of Fidel Castro shouldering a baseball bat behind the hostess stand to the "palm tree" supports shouldering the roof over the old warehouse.

Little Havana started serving brunch three years ago. All but one item on the menu is Cuban. And it was that one item - tortilla de congrejos (crab-meat omelet) - that we liked the least. There was plenty of crab meat folded inside the omelet, and the omelet was fluffy enough. But without a sauce or at least a spice to unify the two main elements, the combination was disjointed.

Not so in the cases of the other egg dishes tried. Huevos Habaneros (Havana-style eggs) was outstanding - two fluffy baked eggs laced with diced onions and red and green peppers. A heartier entree, huevos fritosa a la Cubano (fried eggs Cuban-style), featured two fried eggs over easy, embedded in meaty-tasting rice moistened with a dash of picadillo. All the egg dishes came with fatty bacon, a muffin and three finger-sized wedges of compressed Cuban bread with whipped honey butter.

Coconut flan was the first of the desserts to go. A milky, firm, not-too-sweet custard formed the perfect foil to a thick bottom layer of coconut drenched in brown-sugar sauce.

Neither the icing nor the cake in a hefty slab of chocolate cake possessed much chocolate. A Key lime pie resembled cheesecake in taste and form.

Little Havana's brunch overall is an extremely pleasant way to while away a Sunday - and not entirely because the entree price includes unlimited mimosas and fiery Bloody Marys. Our server performed well, despite her ever-increasing number of tables.

On a cooler day, we would have welcomed the chance to eat outside overlooking the harbor. And the chance to shoot pool after eating might have carried us right into dinner.

Little Havana

Where: 1325-A Key Highway

Open: For brunch Sunday; lunch Friday and Saturday; dinner nightly

Prices: Brunch appetizers $1.95 to $2.50; brunch $10.95 (desserts not included)

Credit cards: AE, MC, V

Call: 410-837-9903

Food: * * *

Service: * * * 1/2

Atmosphere: * * * 1/2

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