top of page

Exploring Authentic Cuban Cuisine at A Piece of Havana in Charlotte

Updated: Apr 16

Cuban food has a special place in our hearts. Since September 2005, we have been to Cuba 14 times for a variety of mission trips. The Cuban people, their food, and their culture have all grabbed a piece of our hearts.

In areas like Miami and Hudson County, New Jersey, Cuban restaurants abound due to the large Cuban American communities. But cities like Charlotte are different. In the last twenty years, there have been only two Cuban restaurants to our knowledge and one of those is now out of business. The other is A Piece of Havana. Located on South Tryon Street (outside of 485), the restaurant is closer to Lake Wylie in South Carolina (6.5 miles) than restaurant hotbeds such as South End (9.4 miles), SouthPark (10.3 miles) and Plaza Midwood (16.8 miles). But on this Saturday evening at 6:00 that we walked into the restaurant, there was already a waiting list. That is pretty early compared to most places in Charlotte unless it’s Chick-Fil-A or Red Robin, which cater to the family with young kids crowd.

We did not go out that Saturday evening with the intent of eating Cuban food. But we were in the area for our son’s AAU basketball tournament. With 2 hours in between games, Davis wanted to stay at the gym. So the two of us headed out for an early dinner without him. As some of you know, we try very hard to eat at locally-owned restaurants. We love both the adventure and also supporting local business owners. On this particular evening, as we were scouring Yelp and TripAdvisor about area restaurants, we remembered that A Piece of Havana was located nearby. It is a place that we’ve been wanting to try for quite some time.

Upon walking into the restaurant and finding out that there was a wait, we asked the natural question, “How long?” to which the hostess replied, “I have no idea.” “So, do you think it will be 5 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour,” we asked to which she replied, “I really have no clue how long.” At all of the restaurants at which we have eaten, we were pretty sure that we have never heard that response. But we just had to laugh. It seemed like something that would occur in the real Havana, where the clock seems to have little influence over the pace at which things happen. It is something that many American tourists can struggle with when they visit the country. But it’s a characteristic that we have come to love about Cuba.

Fortunately, on this evening, we decided to wait, since 5 minutes turned out to be the answer. We got a nice table in a corner within sight of the live musicians singing popular Cuban songs. As we looked over the menu, there were a lot of good options from which to choose. Most restaurants in Cuba break down their menus by the type of protein. There will typically be several beef, pork, chicken, as well as a few shrimp and fish dishes. In Cuba, chicken and shrimp are more widely available and eating beef is a luxury that many Cubans may never experience. You see, most of the restaurants are not affordable for the average Cuban citizen who makes the equivalent of $15-20/month.

Going back to the menu at A Piece of Havana, there were familiar dishes like Pollo a la Plancha (a grilled chicken breast that’s been marinated for 12 hours), Pollo a la Habañera (roasted chicken marinated in a special Mojo seasoning), Camarones al Ajillo (shrimp sauteéd with garlic), Ropa Vieja (described below), Vaca Frita (seasoned beef grilled until crispy then topped with sauteéd onions and a chimichurri sauce), and Lechon Asado (pork marinated for 12 hours in their special Mojo sauce then slow-cooked for 4-6 hours). They also have some of the popular Cuban drinks like natural shakes made with mango, papaya, mamey (a unique fruit indigenous to Cuba/Central America), or guanábana (soursop). Other favorites include Jupiña (a sweet pineapple carbonated beverage), and Malta (a non-alcoholic malted beverage). With a full bar, you can also choose from a selection of beer, wine and mixed drinks. You can even have a Cuban classic - the Mojito. I have never had a mojito better than the ones served in Cuba where they add cane juice from freshly-ground sugar cane and Cuban rum.

For our entreés, Beth ordered the Pollo a la Plancha, and I got one of my favorites, Ropa Vieja which means “old rope.” Ropa Vieja is shredded beef that is boiled in it own juices then cooked in a special tomato sauce. It is considered the national dish of Cuba. With our dishes, we also ordered black beans and rice. You can’t eat Cuban food without having some of these two staples of Cuban cuisine.

Would we go back to A Piece of Havana? Yes. The food was good, the service a bit slow (but they were busy), and the atmosphere festive. There was live Cuban music and many of the patrons danced while waiting for their meals or after dinner. If you want to get away from the usual parts of town that you may go to eat, head down to South Tryon to experience a little of Latin culture.

cuban dish at a piece of havana in charlotte

22 views0 comments


bottom of page