I anticipated the opening of New York’s Café Habana in Malibu for months. It seemed to keep getting further and further delayed and my patience was waning. At last the doors were opened, just a few weeks ago and Angelenos were invited to taste the Cuban cuisine that’s been uber popular among discerning New Yorker’s for quite some time.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew the space, which had taken over the old Malibu Lumber yard, was equipped with an outdoor patio that would lure fans of al fresco dining. I knew they would be busy, as there are very few dining options in Malibu, especially options with atmosphere and fresh house-made caipirinha’s and mojito’s.
Sean Meenan, artist and restaurateur, opened Café Habana in New York City with the goals of bringing good food, a fun atmosphere and socially responsible concept together. Known for many things: helping kids, the environment, and artists, Meenan is also well known for his corn.
No review of Café Habana could be considered complete with out mention of the Mexican style grilled corn, smothered in cotija cheese, lime and chili powder, but we’ll talk about that later on.
It wasn’t Meenan’s idea to bring the eatery to Malibu, but rather local Rande Gerber of Gerber Group and husband to Cindy Crawford. Gerber wanted a place for his family to have dinner and teamed up with Meenan to seal the deal. Meenan also plans on opening an outpost in near by Venice beach where he has a home.
I showed up early on a Saturday night and put my name down for a party of 4. At 6:30 the place was already packed and we were told it’d be a 45-minute wait. We shopped around the new Malibu Lumber shops such as Kitson, Intermix and J Crew to kill time and headed back over to the restaurant almost an hour later. A crowd lingered outside the front and a host told us that it would be another 30 minutes. I thought about bailing and heading over to Taverna Tony’s – the best Greek restaurant in LA in my opinion and a place where you never have to wait more than a few minutes for a table. But, I’d already waited so long! So we headed to the crowded bar and tried a few of the cocktails and continued to wait. The strawberry mojito was incredibly strong. The daiquiri on the other hand was incredibly light, so depending what you are in the mood for, order accordingly. They also offer blended margaritas, caipirinha’s, and specialty cocktails but getting to the bar is not easy when the restaurant is in full swing. Little standing room combined with the fact that servers are running through the small area that does exist, makes standing with your drink an art as you try not to knock into someone.
We were finally seated over an hour and a half after putting
our names down, so my initial advice: make reservations, especially for a
weekend night. A friendly server came out and gave us menus. As previously mentioned the corn is a
must. You can have the kitchen
split them and they are definitely big enough to share. We also tried the Queso Fundito with
fresh tortillas. It tasted great but was a little stringing and difficult to
For entrees the Cuban sandwich was the standout. It comes with Roast Pork, ham, Swiss cheese & pickles on pressed soft bread with a side of great fries. This sandwich was excellent. I’d go back just to eat it again!
Pulled pork burrito with guacamole, yellow rice on a whole-wheat tortilla with a side salad is another good option.
The pulled pork sandwich with
spicy pulled pork and habanero, onions and a side of fries doesn’t stand up to
Café Habana seems like it’s always been here. It appeals to all ages, all budgets and all appetites. I can only hope the wait dies down…
Cafe Habana Malibu Malibu Lumber Yard 3939 Cross Creek Road 310-317-0300