Monday, October 24, 2016

Warming up to Cuban comfort food and music on a blustery fall day

Pargo Frito or Fried Red Snapper at Casual Habana Cafe in Hackensack, above and below.

The popular Main Street restaurant serves Cuban comfort food at reasonable prices.


Dashing out for an early dinner at a local restaurant turned into a comedy of errors on a rainy, windy afternoon.

On Saturday, we forgot that Art of Spice, a terrific Indian restaurant in Hackensack, closes between lunch and dinner, and we pulled in vain on the back door.

Then, we found a spot a half-block away on Main Street, and walked through wind-driven rain to the front door, where the hours were listed.

We were a half-hour early for the 5 p.m. dinner opening.

Luckily, we had parked in front of Casual Habana Cafe, one of our favorite restaurants in Hackensack, and decided to eat there.

We didn't have a reservation, which is recommended on weekends, and were given a table for four (tables for two pushed together), but during our meal, we had to give up one of them, making it difficult to juggle all the plates and glasses.

As the sound system played the Buena Vista Social Club and Cuban salsa, we ordered and then enjoyed:

A whole Fried Red Snapper ($19) with a side of soupy black beans and rice, a salad with avocado and pineapple ($7); a side of Tostones ($4), twice-smashed and fried green plantains; and Basil Lemonade for my wife ($3).

The fish was fried beautifully -- the flesh was moist and there was no greasy taste. It was perfect for two, but could serve three, if you order another entree.

We also ordered takeout, a large Chicken Soup ($7) and more Tostones, but instead of the fried green plantains, we got Arroz Moro, a dirty rice also known as congris ($4).

No Cuban meal is complete without Tostones ($4).

Ensalada Aguacate or Avocado Salad ($7) was difficult to eat because the romaine lettuce was cut into narrow ribbons.

Cubans sometimes call soupy black beans served with white rice Moors and Christians, a reference to the Moorish occupation of Spain from 711 to 1492.

My wife finds the Basil Lemonade ($3) too sweet so she asked for hers with seltzer.

A corner table at Casual Habana Cafe in Hackensack.


Casual Habana Cafe, 125 Main St., Hackensack; 201-880-9844. Open 7 days. BYO, metered street parking and a small lot in the rear. 

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