Home » Bakeries, Restaurants

Old Havana

Posted by DID 22 Feb 2011 31 Comments

Who knew, it seems all of Durham was eagerly awaiting Cuban sandwiches! Old Havana opened its doors almost a month ago in a less-traveled spot on Main St. and since then there have been lines out the door for their lunch service. Their menu is pretty simple with five variations on a pressed sandwich.

Old Havana uses top-notch, locally sourced ingredients in the sandwiches. From their site: “We source our pork from a local Animal Welfare Certified Co-op that uses heirloom breeds of pasture-raised, antibiotic-free animals.” Their sodas are Boylan, their ham Boars Head and the rolls are all from Guglhupf.

The day we stopped in, we opted for the classic Havana ($6.95) and the Santiago ($6.50). The Havana is made up of layers of slow roasted pork, ham, cheese, pickles, mustard and mojo sauce. The Santiago is just a simpler version of that same sandwich, the slow roasted pork, mustard and mojo sauce. We also ordered a side of maduros (oven-roasted plantains) ($3.75) and a coffee con leche ($1.50). Contributor NAT has tried the black beans, which she says, were cooked perfectly in a flavorful broth.

Both sandwiches were tasty but we dug the added flavors of the Havana. The quality of the meat and garlicky mojo sauce really shine in Old Havana’s sandwiches. The crusty, soft Guglhupf rolls are what make them truly outstanding. The maduros are exactly what you want them to be – piping hot, caramelized and indulgently sweet. At a $1.50 the café con leche is a really great deal, milky and sweet with what we’re guessing is some form of sweetened condensed milk. Old Havana also offers what may be the most affordable breakfast in town, a café con leche and a guava toast for $3.

Old Havana is owned by Elizabeth Turnbull and her husband, Cuban native Roberto Copa-Matos. Despite crowds, each time we’ve stopped in the service has been welcoming and friendly. We dig the vibe of the place, the historic building with warm yellow walls and bright openness. Old Havana is a welcome addition to Durham and we hope they continue to do so well.

Old Havana
310 E. Main St.
7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Thanks for the pics NAT.

31 Comments »

  • John said:

    I’m sorry if this comes across as being overly picky about spelling, but I believe you misspelled a great Durham restaurant. I believe the rolls come from “Guglhupf” (not Guglehumpf).

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    DID replies on February 22nd, 2011 at 9:11 pm:

    updated! my bad.

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  • Burger F. said:

    Thank you, John! That was driving me nuts as I read.

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  • t said:

    I found the pork to be a bit dry and wished the plantain chips were house-made, but otherwise everything was pretty tasty.

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  • TSQ75 said:

    Foodie hipsters can disagree and nitpick if they want…but this Cuban testifies that is a real Cuban sanwich made by real Cubans. that place got Heart!

    Beans still need help, if you ask me, but its necessary to note that they dont have a full kitchen. prep, oven for the whole pigs, a smaller oven for plantains, and crockpots and rice cookers. not so easy to craft a bit of sofrito for the beans, but it could be done! :)

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  • Kid Stardust said:

    Went here for the first time today and really enjoyed it! The Cuban sandwiches compared favorably to the ones I’ve had in Florida. The parking situation stinks, but it’s worth hoofing it a couple blocks or from the gravel lot behind the sheriff’s!

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  • t said:

    I had a completely different experience. I had the black bean sandwich and thought it left something to be desired. I wished that the plantain chips were made fresh (or priced cheaper) and that the guava pastels didn’t come from a box.

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    Elizabeth replies on February 23rd, 2011 at 12:59 pm:

    T – Sorry you didn’t love your black bean sandwich. We’ll work harder to win you over. We’d love to make our own plantain chips, but we don’t have a deep fryer and we’d like to avoid getting one. We do make our maduros fresh and love how crispy they get. One important note is that the guava pasteles don’t come from a box – we make them.

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  • Elizabeth said:

    Thanks for the great post and support – we look forward to welcoming you back.

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    Sant replies on February 23rd, 2011 at 2:26 pm:

    Please tell me you plan to add croquetas to the menu at some point. If you have room behind the store maybe Durham will allow you to roast whole pigs using a la caja china.

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    tsq75 replies on February 23rd, 2011 at 2:49 pm:

    Caja China Aint totally fool proof. I have one and it works beautifully…but its a bit finicky and doesnt like cold weather…lol

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    Elizabeth replies on February 23rd, 2011 at 8:58 pm:

    We DO plan to add croquetas to the menu. And we checked out the Caja China, but it’s a no go. We have a slow roaster that does a beautiful job and is a lot less maintenance. In the end, it worked out for the best.

  • Elliot said:

    I enjoy my experience there. I thought the mojo sauce they used for the sandwiches really enhanced the dish. I too wish they would make their own plantain chips, but the ones we had weren’t bad.

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  • Elizabeth said:

    One more note – We don’t actually use sweetened condensed milk in our cafe con leches. That carmelized flavor comes from the way we do the sugar infusion. Our milk comes from Jackson Dairy, a local, NC dairy with cows that are pasture-raised, antiobiotic-free, and have no-added-hormones.

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  • Too Much Good said:

    I ate here for lunch today based on this post and thought it was delicious! I do wish they had more beverages (only bottled drinks and water jugs) and I found the restaurant hard to find even with a GPS. But my Havana sandwich and plantains well worth the effort!

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  • Brian said:

    My family ate here Thursday night and tried about everything and REALLY enjoyed it! A welcome addition to Durham.

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  • Sant said:

    I finally got around to trying this place. I tried both the Havana and the Santiago. The Havana tastes like the real deal Cubans I had in Miami. One suggestion, Elizabeth: could you guys offer sweet pickles as an option to dill? I find dill sometimes overpower the other flavors. I REALLY liked the Santiago. The mojo flavor comes through better and I loved the textural contrast of the crunchy bits of pork intermixed with the soft, moist bits. YUM! Kudos on the bread. Nice crispy shell but it doesn’t serrate the roof of your mouth like other breads when toasted. The fact that this place is a 10 minute walk from my office is dangerous.

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    tsq75 replies on March 3rd, 2011 at 6:29 pm:

    the “walk” part kinda makes up for it, no? lol

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  • Elizabeth said:

    I hated this place! I’m from Miami and of Cuban parents. There is nothing about this place that is Cuban. Just to start: the bread is from a German bakery. Come on people! Then-the chips are bagged, just like the ones you can buy at International Foods. The drinks are not Cuban either. How about a Jupina or a Materva-those are Cuban drinks!!! Then desert-a “palmera” -again from the same German bakery. All this place gets is Guglhupf products-if I want Guglhupf, I just go there. For Cuban food in the triangle-The Havana Grill in Cary is as close as it gets. This is from a “real-Cuban”.

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    Kid Stardust replies on March 5th, 2011 at 9:30 pm:

    I hear you! I hate McDonald’s for not being more Scottish!

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    TSQ75 replies on March 6th, 2011 at 10:08 pm:

    this cuban from Miami with parents from Cuba completely disagrees with you

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    Elizabeth replies on March 6th, 2011 at 10:17 pm:

    @Kid Stardust-your comment has no validity. If McDonald’s served Scottish food and claimed to be Scottish, then I’d understand. You can claim to be a Cuban sandwich and use ingredients that aren’t Cuban.

    @ TSQ75-I’d love for you to tell me what Cuban restaurant in Miami uses German bread to make their sandwiches. I go at least once a month and lived there for 24 years. I never and I mean never tasted a worse imitation.

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    tsq75 replies on March 7th, 2011 at 10:09 am:

    oh geez, its just freaking Bread, who the hell cares? it works just fine. these are good people, cut them some slack and support.

    i’ll still take Durham over Miami any day, this is just a bonus

  • Juan said:

    Maybe I had bad luck this day but I thought that the meat was really dry and the sandwich was lacking in flavor. There wasn’t enough spice, cheese or anything really to make it an exciting thing to eat. I want flavor explosion when I eat Cuban sandwiches, and this just didn’t go that far. I think it’s got the makings of a really great downtown eatery, just doesn’t really take the theme very far. Go further!

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  • gobotzoo said:

    I haven’t been there, but if this place is using high quality bread that approximates the type used in an ‘authentic’ Cuban sandwich, I don’t see why the fact that it comes from a German bakery has any bearing on the overall product’s quality nor its authenticity. If you ate the sandwich not knowing it was from a German bakery (and for the record Guglhupf has lots of great baked goods that aren’t German), would you think any less of it?

    If it’s bad, then it’s bad. If the bread isn’t what an authentic Cuban sandwich would use, then it’s inauthentic. But if it uses the same type of bread an average Cuban sandwich would have, just made at a German bakery, then I find the complaint quite odd.

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    Elizabeth replies on March 9th, 2011 at 8:35 am:

    As I started my review off-I have had an “authentic” Cuban sandwich and these are not. I just wanted to single out easy facts i.e. bread, desserts, drinks for those that are not Cuban or haven’t lived in a place like Miami, where they do have authentic Cuban food. For the record, I did also specify that there is a restaurant that makes their own bread, desserts, etc. that are as close to authentic as you can get here in the triangle.

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    Sant replies on March 11th, 2011 at 1:01 am:

    Making Cubans isn’t rocket science, it’s just roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, and pickles. There’s nothing special required to make it “authentic.” And before you ask, I’ve eaten many Cubans at the Latin American in Hialeah while visiting with my Cuban American roommate from FSU. As for the bread, what would you have them do, ship Cuban bread up to Durham from Miami? I’d rather have a great local bakery make close approximations of Cuban bread that is fresh than have stale “authentic” bread.

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    Elizabeth replies on March 18th, 2011 at 7:06 pm:

    I’d expect the restaurant to make the Cuban bread-that is what The Havana Grill in Cary does, so why can’t they? I agree-it’s not rocket science, so why are can’t they make the pork there as well? Listen, go to Havana Grill and compare. They make other stuff, so I expected for Old Havana that is specializing in sandwiches, to make better sandwiches–but no:(

  • babeshka said:

    I wasn’t impressed. the black bean paste sandwich (can’t remember the name) was bland. I was hoping for house-made plantain chips and was disappointed to get bagged chips, though the quantity was plentiful. I can’t say I will go back there to dine.

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  • Old Havana Sandwich Shop « MasalaWala said:

    [...] seems like other bloggers at Carpe Durham and Demandy are enjoying the recent addition to Durham as well.  While it isn’t the best Cuban [...]

  • Craig said:

    I thought the Cuban sandwich was fine, if not groundbreaking. I thought this would be the perfect place to maybe find some ropa vieja, if only on a sandwich, but when I asked the guy at the counter if they ever made it as a special, he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. Oh well. I thought it was a solid joint, but I probably wouldn’t make a special trip to go there.

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