Cuban restaurant Little Havana is now projected to open this May in Petworth in, bringing with it with elevated twists on Caribbean fare and rum drinks served in hollowed out pineapples.
Seasoned restaurateur Alfredo Solis, founder of popular neighborhood taquerias El Sol and Mezcalero, is taking a break from Mexican food at the new 70-seat eatery currently taking shape at 3704 14th Street NW. Solis has tapped chef Joseph Osorio — an alum of Clyde’s Restaurant Group and Alexandria Restaurant Partners (Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza, Majestic, Vola’s Dockside Grill, and others) — to lead the kitchen. Osorio says his Cuban godmother helped raise him from an early age.
“I’ve liked cooking since I was nine and she was why,” he tells Eater .
Design features include a central open kitchen that’s covered in clean white subway tiling. It also partitions the restaurant, strategically separating the dining area from the back bar in order to create a natural buffer.
“So when you get drunk back here the kitchen is in between,” says Osorio. “We want to keep it family orientated for the neighborhood.”
The rectangular-shaped space opens up to a street-facing patio via huge sliding glass doors. Seating throughout will be comprised of rustic woods; the flooring will stay as is (gray cement slab work).
Artwork from native muralists is expected to pay tribute to historic figures, with Cuban-American singer Celia Cruz splashed across a brick wall. Her music will also be inluded on a rotating playlist, along with lots of salsa songs. Havana’s famous José Martí Memorial, a star-shaped tower and statue honoring the national hero, will be depicted on another wall.
As for the fare, Osorio hopes to transport diners to Miami’s South Beach, where Cuban restaurants abound. “Half of the menu is going to be really traditional, and the other half is our twist on Cuban cuisine,” says Solis.
Empanadas will make an appearance. Osorio is also working on a Cuban spring roll appetizer — his riff on a Cuban sandwich — featuring pork, cheese sauce, and diced up pickles that’s designed to be dipped in a roasted garlic and dijon mustard aioli (his kids have already signed off on the dish). Meats across the menu will include braised short ribs, jerk chicken, and oxtail. The overall selection will celebrate all types of Latin American cuisine, as “Havana is pretty much the main port to the rest of the Caribbean,” says Osorio.
Rum — Cuba’s defining spirit — will play a starring role at the bar, along with fruit juices, syrups, and ice. Beverage director Heriberto Casasanero, formerly at Copycat Co., is assembling a mix of sipping rums, white varieties, and “sharp” ones that pair well with citrus juices.
One idea being floated is to carve out, cork, and freeze pineapples, transforming them into spiky “glassware” to house tropical drinks such as piña coladas. Coconuts could get the same treatment. Another option is serving desserts in Cuban cigar boxes.
Little Havana is projected to operate from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. to start, with the bar opening an hour earlier. Weekend brunch is scheduled to follow soon after, and morning coffee and pastries are expected to enter the mix later on.
D.C.’s Cuban dining scene is continuing to grow, with color-soaked Colada Shop on the hunt for more locations.