A little bit of Cuba in Towson

New cafe features chef's artisanal take on classic Cuban recipes

  • Marta Ines Quintana, chef and owner of Havana Road Cuban Cafe, with Santa Clara Lechon Asado, slow roasted Cuban pork braised in white wine with black beans and rice.
Marta Ines Quintana, chef and owner of Havana Road Cuban Cafe,… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
November 23, 2010|By Richard Gorelick, The Baltimore Sun

Last month, I received an e-mail from a Towson office worker who told me about his pleasurable first visit to Havana Road Cafe, and he told me how much he and his friend loved the pulled-pork sandwich and the classic Cubano, with slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss and pickles, He was hoping Havana Road could get some attention, and he acknowledged that he was acting out of self-interest: "I want to be sure they get plenty of business so they stay in town!"

I got in touch with the folks at Havana Road. Sometimes, my calls are greeted with indifference, but not this time. Michael Storey, who co-owns the restaurant with its principal owner and chef, Marta Ines Quintana, was thrilled about the idea of her cooking getting new fans. Quintana, like many chefs who began their careers in catering, is a refugee from the corporate world, with a background in sales and marketing. Before opening Havana Road, Quintana's cooking was known through her Cuban Tapas Catering company and by the line of artisanal sauces she has been selling through area markets under the name Havana Road Products.

With Havana Road as a permanent base for Quintana, Storey thinks her cooking will catch on. The menu at Havana Road is simple, and Quintana is focusing on the kind of cooking she learned from her mother, the kind of rib-sticking, hearty Cuban fare familiar people love so much — slow-simmered briskets, slow-roasted pork and hearty beef stews. Quintana's mother is often beside her in Havana Road's kitchen, as is her daughter, who owns a cake and confections business in the area.

Additional owners include Alan Manfredonia and Storey's son, Jesse, who is managing the 30-seat restaurant, which is decorated with drawings and photographs depicting life on the island. Storey tells me that Havana Road "strives to show the Cuban culture as a rich and harmonious mix of peoples, who express their care for each other and their joy of life through their food and lifestyle."

Havana Road is open from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The restaurant is at 8 W. Pennsylvania Ave. Call 410-494-8222, or go to http://www.havanaroad.com

B&O changes Executive chef Michael Reidt will leave the B&O Brasserie, effective Dec. 10. His next assignment for Kimpton Hotel & Restaurants: Area 31 in Miami, which was named one of Esquire magazine's best new restaurants in 2009.

Taking over as executive chef is Thomas Dunklin, currently the chef of Kimpton's Red Star Tavern House in Portland, Ore. Dunklin is expected to start at the B&O American Brasserie in mid-December. He will release his first B&O menu in the spring.

This change was announced just a day after B&O made my list of Baltimore's top 50 restaurants, along with a brief mention of Reidt in my favorable comments.

Top 50 restaurants revisited Speaking of the top-50 list, what was the immediate reaction? People wondered where there favorites were. Among the missing were places like Samos, Roy's, Fleming's, Mr. Rain's Fun House, any number of Little Italy restaurants, and especially Tio Pepe, which was my family's favorite special-occasion restaurant. I felt bad leaving it off, but I heard from people who hadn't been to the restaurant in years who were planning to visit it again soon.

To read and comment on the list and for details about our contest for a $150 gift certificate to the Prime Rib, the restaurant that landed in first place, go to baltimoresun.com/50restaurants.


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