Neighborhood newcomer Little Havana will feature murals of famous Cuban faces, swaying palms, and piña coladas served out of pineapples, aiming to transport guests to the lively streets of Havana.
Seasoned restaurateur Alfredo Solis, founder of popular neighborhood taquerias El Sol and Mezcalero, is behind the new Petworth eatery (3704 14th Street NW) that’s shooting to open for dinner service on Friday, August 10. 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) — has a laser focus on serving the same fare found in Cuba. Finalized dishes include seared seasoned liver with onion and peppers, rice, cassava fries, and pan gravy, as well as slow braised beef tongue and fried coconut shrimp curry.
Local street artist Ernesto DoobyFame Zelaya just splashed a series of electric-colored murals across the festive 70-seat space. One massive painting upon entry depicts Zeyala driving in a pink Cadillac towards Cuba’s capital building.
Bright art also pays tribute to iconic Cuban-American figures, with singer Celia Cruz featured on the back brick wall. Her music will air on a rotating playlist, as will lots of salsa songs. More recognizable mugs include those of Major League Baseball legend José Canseco and actress Eva Mendes. There’s also one of Osorio’s Cuban godmother, who taught him how to cook her native cuisine when he was growing up. Other design accents include a turquoise metal ceiling flanked by huge fans and a central open kitchen covered in white subway tiling, separating the dining area from the back bar.
The menu draws inspiration from 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,” Solis told Eater this year. There’s empanadas, stuffed peppers, seafood paella, and tortas in the mix, as well as lots of meats like short ribs, jerk chicken, and oxtail.
Here’s a look at the opening menu:
Beverage director Heriberto Casasanero, formerly at Copycat Co. plans to carve out, cork, and freeze pineapples, turning them into spiky “glassware” to house tropical drinks. Coconuts will get the same treatment. Little Havana will also go green by swapping out plastic straws for paper or bamboo ones. A seasonal draft cocktail will appear on its happy hour, and the team’s also importing Puerto Rican beers and integrating local brews. Also look out for Red Stripe and a sherry sangria at the bar.
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 and lunch is scheduled to follow a few weeks after, and morning coffee and pastries are expected to join the lineup later on.
D.C.’s Cuban dining scene is continuing to grow, with color-soaked Colada Shop on the hunt for more locations. And the al fresco El Sapo Cuban Social Club (8455 Fenton Street, Silver Spring, Md.) is projected to debut some time in August with mojitos, upbeat music, and island-inspired flavors from chef Raynold Mendizábal, who runs five-year-old meat mecca Urban Butcher a short walk away.