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Last-Minute Decision Saves Little Havana From the Chopping Block

The idea to convert it into a Mexican spot will have to wait

Little Havana’s space Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Alfredo Solis had a change of heart. After a news release went out today stating that Little Havana would close this weekend to make way for a new Mexican restaurant in June, the chef and restaurateur decided he wasn’t ready to give up on the Cuban joint that been open in Columbia Heights for less than a year.

Solis told Washington City Paper that he “made the decision too fast” and plans to keep Little Havana open for at least a couple more months. He told the outlet he loves Cuban food, “but the support of the neighborhood isn’t there. It’s hard to keep my staff. I’m trying my best to bring in more customers.”

A representative for Solis tells Eater that Little Havana will remain open indefinitely, meaning fans of the ropa vieja short ribs and the colorful Caribbean cocktails can breathe easy for now.

In rankings for a spring dining guide that Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema has revealed online over the past few weeks, the scribe rated Little Havana as the No. 9 new restaurant in D.C. If the restaurant would have closed as planned on Saturday, it would have gone dark before it appeared in print in the newspaper’s Sunday magazine.

The plan to close Little Havana was part of a release announcing the forthcoming opening of a new Mexican restaurant called Anafre, a Spanish word for a coal-fired clay stove in Mexico. Anafre is a tribute to Solis’s mother, Felisa Romero, who used to cook for her brothers using the same type of stove. Solis’s rep says opening Anafre somewhere is still part of the restaurateur’s plans.

Although Anafre promised to explore new sides of Mexican food for Solis — including a fried, grilled Baja California-style lobster and mole-glazed ribs — it would have added to an already crowded strip.

Solis’s own Mezcalero, which serves standards the chef grew up eating in the state of Mexico, and Puebla-style Taqueria Habanero share the same strip of 14th Street NW as Little Havana. Tequila & Mezcal, a bar from the Taqueria Habanero owners that opened just this week.

Solis opened Little Havana with partners Jessica Solis, his sister and top kitchen lieutenant, and Joseph Osorio, the executive chef, last August. In addition to Mezcalero and Little Havana, Solis and his sister also own and operate El Sol in Logan Circle.

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