A friend of mine once said that yellow is a happy color. I used to think he was crazy for saying it, but after stepping foot inside this little Broad Ripple joint I’m starting to think he was right.
815 Broad Ripple Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46220
Taste of Havana’s interior is not big at all, with only two tables and a few bar-like seating. The scent that meets you when you enter is an interesting combination: hearty, herby, and just about any other adjective you can think of that can make you sit down and enjoy a meal. The atmosphere is very jovial, not just because the inside is painted yellow but also because the owner himself is a very friendly and cheerful person. We must make one thing clear though: this place is good if you like having a cozy meal with your folks. If you want to stretch about and have all the room in the world, you won’t do well here.
I ordered their pan con lechon during their first visit, and I’ve been missing it ever since. Loads of tender, succulent chunks of pork that’s simply oozing with wonderful marinade inside and out. Large onion petals accompany the meat pieces, and they are just as delicious with their super soft texture, having completely absorbed the juices around it. Each bite is a testament to the fact that the owner marinades the pork for a long time before actually cooking and serving it. That’s dedication.
Let’s not forget our trusty bread. Slightly crusty, very soft yet still sturdy enough to handle loads of juices from the lechon, it’s the best container you can ever have with this wonderful sandwich. It’s a special bread that the owner gets from a local bakery.
This was an interesting combination. Ham, swiss cheese, and Spanish chorizo surrounded by pickles and mustard. It sounds like it should be a cold sandwich but it isn’t; however, it’s not a searing hot sandwich either. It’s actually just warm enough to be… well, warm (meaning, if you like ooey gooey cheese in your sandwich, go somewhere else). When I took a bite of it (this was Wade-o’s sandwich), it was quite the experience. The ham was gentle while the Spanish chorizo was bold, resulting in a perfectly matched combination. The cheese gives extra mouthfeel, and the mustard and pickles both give a well-deserved sharpness and tang around it.
Before I forget, these two sides are wonderful. These are actually fried small plantains, which are very sweet. The black bean soup, on the other hand, are divine (unless you don’t like beans – I’m talking to you, Wade-o). No other unnecessary hooplah: just a good base/stock/broth/whatever-the-right-term-is and black beans. It’s warm, it’s hearty, and it’s good enough to be a meal on its own. I personally think it beats chicken noodle soup in terms of soul curing, but that’s just me…
Of course, how can I not talk about this thing. The Cuban Croctail: a two-foot long sandwich loaded with ham, pork, swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and with some tomatoes thrown in because why the heck not. For an extra two something dollars, you can get drinks and chips with it. As of writing time, only three people have finished this thing by themselves. Wade-o and I, on the other hand, finished this beast twice already. No, not by ourselves. We split this sandwich between us and finished it that way. Wade-o can finish his in five minutes, while I have to take forty minutes. You can’t blame me, I want to savor the flavors!
If you do manage to finish this by yourself (within some time limit that I can’t remember because I personally won’t be able to do it myself), you get a picture of yourself hung on the wall to commemorate your achievement.
Anyway, back to the actual sandwich. This gargantuan meal is also big flavor-wise. I already told you about the wonderful marinated pork, now imagine that with a fairly thick slice of lightly cured ham, along with soft swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, all enclosed in their awesome bread. Every flavor is balanced, turning the whole feat of eating this giant sandwich into a treat instead of an ordeal.
The one thing I must not forget to talk about is the owner and his daughter, who work fastidiously as a duo. They are both very friendly and helpful, and if you fancy a chat about anything under the sun, the owner will happily take you up on your offer.
Now that I think about it, I’m not really doing this place enough justice by simply talking about it. There’s an essence I’m not able to capture with just my writing; it’s something you have to experience in person. If you’re around the area, I implore you to stop by and try them out. I honestly thought they were pretty awesome.