When you live in the same small city for a long period of time the bar scene can get kind of… well monotonous. If you are younger we have plenty of bars where the men wear their tightest designer shirts and the women wear their tallest heels and shortest skirts and dance to a DJ spinning ear drum busting techno music while sipping on some strange fluorescent colored drink served in a test tube by a bikini wearing shot girl wearing a whistle. If your older, we also have bars that are little hole in the wall joints filled with 5 people who smell like Ben Gay, are all part of some club or lodge, drink straight bourbon no ice, are upset about those new crazy cell phones, and hit on the young hot bartender who is actually 50 years old and has no teeth. So if you don’t want to go out fist pumping with young kids, or be out all night telling old stories about when you were young where do you go? And then, out of the blue, on one of the streets known to cater to the younger crowd, I accidentally walk into one of the most beautiful, remarkable, fantastic bars I have been to in a while called The Havana Cabana Rum Bar on 289 Alexander Street. I will admit I was wowed, and it has been a long time since a bar has wowed me. The day I visited The Havana, it was blistering cold and snowing. As soon as I walked in, I felt like I was in a Caribbean paradise right off the beach. The bar is dimly lit but the atmosphere is festive and rhythmic. The bar room has that classic Cuban look sprinkled with modern day must haves like LCD TV's so you can watch the game. The crowd is right in that mid rage between 30 and 50 years old dressed in casual attire. The Staff and bartenders are extra friendly and happy to suggest a tasty drink featuring one or two of the over 40 premium rums they serve there. Drinks like the Cabana Breeze with Gold Rum, Midori, Cranberry and Orange Juice. Also The Sand Bar which includes White Rum, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Grand Mariner, topped with Champagne. I decided to have The Old Cuban with White Rum, Mint Leaves, Simple Syrup, Lime Juice, and Champagne which was delicious. I was very impressed and decided it was time for me to check out the restaurant area. My guest and I were seated by a very friendly hostess. In the back a Mariachi duo played beautiful Latin style music. The 2 floor restaurant was also dimly lit with chandeliers and covered with Cuban posters and art work. The main floor didn't seem like it could hold many diners but the two large rooms upstairs made up for it. I was very impressed and wondered could this place be any better. Then we were given menus The food options were simply amazing! The appetizers include Blue Crab Stuffed Avocado, Conch Fritters (yes Conch Fritters in Rochester) and of course, Jerky chicken. The mains were even more spectacular. They have the Cuban Harvest Paella which consists of Bay Scallops, Jumbo Shrimp, Calamari, Clams, Chorizo Sausage & Split 1/2 Chicken Simmered in a Saffron Herbed Sea Broth Steamed Rice with Garlic, Shallots Mixed Peppers & Onions. Not in the mood for seafood? Well the Island Jerk Pork Loin Marinated in Pineapple Juice, Rum and Island Spices then Slow Roasted, Pulled & topped with Blackberry Rum Barbeque Sauce, Grilled Pineapple and Star Fruit served with Black Beans and White Rice should suffice. Now I have to be honest. Everything is over the top and amazing so yes, you will have to pay for it. The Drinks range from $7-$15, the appetizers, from $8-$16 and the mains, from $19-$30. Some very tasty seafood soups are available between $6 and $8 also. My suggestion if you really want to go big is to stop by during happy hour during the week between 3 and 6 PM were draft beer is only $3, well drinks and house wine is only $4, and classic Mojitos are only $5. That way you can save money on drinks and eat that tasty food. Or better yet, come in on Sunday and enjoy the Brunch from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM. You get to still try much of the delicious seafood and pork paired with breakfast foods all priced between $8 and $17 which is a little more reasonable. Also the happy hour drink specials go all day long on Sunday. Kudos to Trey Yager and Matt Cole. They are the business partners at Havana Cabana. Rochester is known for copy cat bars. There are many bars that you go to that look and feel exactly the same as the bar you just left. Being unique is a risk in the bar industry now a days because the risk of failure is highest when you try to do something outside of the norm. But sometimes being unique creates an amazing result. I personally believe this is one of those times and I am happy that I stumbled into this fantastic establishment almost by accident.
February 23, 2014