By Keshia McEntire, also published in Uncle Sam’s Immigrant Cafe
Traditional Cuban music, a tropical atmosphere and the aroma of authentic eating habits are on the doorstep when you step into Taste of Havana. Located in the lively Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis, the restaurant has served Cuban cuisine since 2013 and specializes in C.Uban sandwiches, pastelitos and coffee.
It was the family that inspired Taste of Havana owner Jorge Chalgub becomes an entrepreneur.
Chalgub grew up in Cuba but moved to Miami when he was 14. As his youngest daughter was preparing to start elementary school, he decided that she should grow up in a safer city.
“I’m traveling to work and stopping in Indianapolis, and I liked the city,” said Chalgub. “When we moved here, it was one of the lowest crime cities in the United States. It was a breeze.”
When his daughter was finishing her sophomore year and was figuring out her career goals, Chalgub, who ran food for Miami International Airport before moving to Indianapolis, wanted her to leave the restaurant business.
“We opened it. It started out very small, only half the space we have today. We didn’t have a lot of capital and I figured if it worked we could keep growing, ”said Chalgub.
His gambling has paid off. Taste of Havana has received rave reviews on both Google and Yelp, and attracts a diverse mix of customers to the area, known for its quirky shops, bars, and entertainment options.
“I like to think that we are very original,” said Chalgub. “This isn’t cheap Cuban food, it’s old school like it was when I was a teenager.”
Taste of Havana’s manages to stay affordable without losing quality. Cuban sandwiches start at $ 7.50 and include ham, turkey, and vegetarian options. According to Chalgub, pork is the most popular food.
“Pork is all about flavoring, and one of the reasons our pork is popular is because it is extremely tender.” said Chalgub.
While at Taste of Havana I had the opportunity to try the pork falling off the bone as well as one of three Cuban lunch bowls. I chose the pollo en plancha, which was grilled chicken marinated in lime juice, seasoned with pepper and garlic, and served with white rice and black beans. I also have the chance to try Cafe Con Leche, a bold and rich Cuban coffee Steamed milk and espresso. Not only was the food tasty, the prices were reasonable and the environment was friendly.
Leaving a legacy
Through his restaurant and the relationships he has built in the surrounding community, Chalgub hopes to educate Hoosers about Cuban culture. Decorations on the walls of the restaurants trace the seven provinces of Cuba, and the radio plays a steady mix of Cuban music.
“It’s mambo, cha cha cha, and everyone loves salsa, but salsa was about back then enjoy the music. We have Afrofcuban which is part of country music and boogaloo, ”said Chalgub. “I want people to feel like if they come here they won’t be in Indiana anymore, especially in winter. I want something bright, loud and proud. ”
For Chalgub, operating Taste of Havana is his way of honoring his family name while educating the community about his culture.
“Not everyone has the same dream and I know that winning is very important, but my case is all about my name, my reputation, my quality,” said Chalgub. “People need to know that Cuba is a beautiful island with great people. It is actually a tropical paradise with optimistic, very happy people.”
Taste of Havana is located in 815 Broad Ripple Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46220. For more information, visit tastofhavanaindy.com.
Do you want to eat more indy? Try some of the best pancakes in town or visit our local cat café.
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