by Michael Gabor, April 8, 2017
El Café was recommended to us by a journalist in Miami who writes for a Cuban-American publication. It turned out to be only a few short blocks from our Airbnb apartment on San Juan de Dios. Unlike most cafes it did not have any signage. But once we found it we knew something was different. It was pleasantly laid out with an open kitchen area in the front, about 8 tables in the dining area, an open courtyard toward the back with some chairs if you needed to wait for a table. Expect to wait for a table and lurking at a table that’s about to finish may be necessary. The menus were posted on chalkboards on the wall. There was one for breakfast and one for lunch but it seemed that they served everything as long as they were open- and still had ingredients.
As vegans we were pleased to see that there were plenty of items from which to choose. They featured a vegan sandwich with roasted aubergine and humus that was perfection. The bread, a whole wheat sourdough, was one of the best breads we’ve had rivaling NY’s Balthazar, Eli’s and Tribeca Oven. A hummus plate included slices of tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers. The gazpacho was also wonderful.
They have a good selection of fresh fruit juices and vegetable juices which, from the constant whir of the juicing machine, seemed very popular. Although we were delighted to find vegan fare for us, our guests also had a good selection of inventive items that were fresh and well-presented like a pulled pork sandwich on their homemade bread with hummus, lettuce and an orange marmalade. Although the food is decidedly not Cuban per se, it celebrates the fresh ingredients of the island and was a welcome reprieve from trying to navigate the more touristy restaurants in Old Havana.