Cuban restaurant on Backstreet provides variety, culture

Wil Petty Staff Writer

August 26, 2013

When Selma Quintero and Kenia Romero decided to open a Cuban restaurant in West Jefferson, it felt like the perfect idea.

Located on the Backstreet across from the Farmer’s Market, Havana Café opened in late June. Despite being open a short time, there has been a steady flow of customers into the establishment.

“It has been fabulous” Quintero, the owner of the restaurant said. “We have not had a negative comment yet.”

The restaurant continues to become a hot spot in West Jefferson as it continues to develop. Word of mouth has been the main way business has generated revenue.

“The support has been tremendous,” Quintero said. “We advertised very little, we’re a small business and just starting out so our funds are limited. The word of mouth has been fantastic and everybody has just been wonderful and supportive.”

Those running the operations of the restaurant have a Cuban heritage, and that aesthetic comes through while dining at the establishment.

“We’re all Cuban, so it’s in our blood,” Quintero said. “Cuban food is something we do every day at home, so this is us.”

Quintero said that they decided to open in West Jefferson because the town was booming. Also there was no Cuban restaurant in the Ashe or Watauga areas which made it easier to open here.

Quintero had previously owned a coffee shop in Alleghany County. After she sold it, she decided it was time to start doing Cuban food in the High Country.

“(Romero and I) have known each other for about three years,” Quintero said. “When I sold the coffee shop (Romero) said ‘Why don’t we do the Cuban restaurant?’”

Cuban food is traditionally flavorful and less spicy compared to other styles of Caribbean food.

“It is not something that is very spicy, it is flavorful,” Quintero said.

Havana Café serves various Cuban sandwiches, as well as traditional sides from the Caribbean nation.

Although the restaurant does not open until 11 a.m., workers will show up as early as 7 a.m. each day to start preparing the food.

“We make everything fresh in the mornings from the beans to the pork to the steak,” Romero, the general manager said.

Although the restaurant is relatively new, Quintero is already looking to the future and hope that expansion of the bistro occurs.

“I hope we grow and get a bigger place,” she said. “Our goal for next year is to have air conditioning, so we’ll see.

As it is a new restaurant, the hours of the establishment are limited.

Havana Café is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. The establishment is closed on Sunday and Monday.