Pablo’s Havana Cafe in Powell, Ohio

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I was in Columbus, Ohio, for a book signing at the White Castle downtown for a few days. So I was pleasantly surprised to find Pablo’s Havana Cafe (9685 Sawmill Road) in Powell, Ohio.

It had only been open for about six months. But I’m wondering, how exactly did a Cuban restaurant find its way to Ohio?

I usually check out all old-school restaurants or as many as possible when visiting a town. However, there is one exception to that rule, typically Cuban food.

I’m from Miami, Florida, where you can find Cuban food all over the place, so why have more of the same? I’m looking for Frita Cubanas, the Cuban Hamburger.

The Frita was street food in Cuba and was served out of hot dog-type carts. It arrived in Miami, Florida, in the early 1960s via the Fritas Domino cart in Little Havana when many Cuban sought refuge there.

You can find a more extended version of its history in a chapter from my book All About The Burger.

Cuban Food in Ohio?

Menu

Pablo Taura, Pablo’s Havana Cafe owner, greeted my wife Marcela and me upon arrival. He is indeed Cuban and arrived in Ohio via New Jersey, where he had lived since 1967.

New Jersey houses the third-largest pocket of Cubans after Miami and Tampa, Florida. Pablo fell in love with his now-wife, from Ohio, and ended up moving here.

His grandmother’s recipes inspire the food. I knew there had to be a great story, and I’m glad he shared it with us.

After our conversation, he shows off his mojo’d-up lechon (aka roast pork). Now, we’re officially friends.

Pablo showing off his Roast Pork from Pablo's Havana Cafe in Powell, Ohio
Pablo with Roast Pork aka Lechon

Frita Cubana Talk in Ohio

Fortunately, my luck didn’t end there; Pablo was debuting his Cuban Burger on that day. I tell him about my Frita Cubana obsession, and we talk about the technique used to cook a Frita on the flattop.

Do you want to talk about a memorable moment? He invited me into his kitchen, and we cooked up some mini Fritas together.

Pablo with Burger Beast in the kitchen at Pablo's Havana Cafe in Powell, Ohio
Pablo with Burger Beast in the kitchen
Cuban Burger aka Frita Cubana

The food is Cuban but spiced slightly differently than what we might find in Miami. The Picadillo (seasoned ground beef) was way spicier (heat-wise) than I’ve had anywhere else.

We loved this version of it. The Black Beans had a more pronounced cumin taste than their Miami cousins.

Pablo's Havana Cafe Tostones Rellenos in Powell, Ohio
Tostones Rellenos
Pablo's Havana Cafe Black Beans in Powell, Ohio
Black Beans

So How was The Cuban Sandwich in Ohio?

The Cuban Sandwich is the best that I’ve had outside of Miami and Tampa. I’ve eaten Cuban Sandwiches in 15 different states at this point.

The lechon, which was also on one of the tostones (fried plantains) along with the crusty bread, made it the stand-out dish of the afternoon. The Cuban Sandwich was perfectly executed.

This is a Miami Cuban Sandwich, not a Tampa Cuban Sandwich for those of you keeping tabs at home. Both sandwiches have pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles, but a Tampa Cuban also has salami.

Cuban Sandwich
Yuca Fries

Marcela and I were stuffed. We wanted to have a Cafe con Leche (Cuban Latte) and flan, but there was just no way.

We had planned to drop in at Pablo’s Havana Cafe one more time before leaving town, but the visit never materialized.

If you find yourself in the Columbus/Dublin area, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you did not eat at Pablo’s Havana Cafe. When you see Pablo, please make sure to let him know that the Beast sent you.


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