The hunt for Cuban food continues...Hello, Havana Kitchen!

As you know, we live a few area codes away from the nearest restaurants serving Cuban food. Of course, this has become the impetus for me to actually cook Cuban food regularly, but that's not important right now.

Last week, Eric and I got to escape to Temecula's Wine Country for a few days. Temecula is only about an hour and a half drive away from us. But it feels like a world away. There are miles and miles of beautiful vineyards and the requisite wine tasting that goes along with that.

M & E

We particularly enjoyed the Mount Palomar Winery and Leonesse Cellars Winery. They encouraged us to walk through the vines. There's something a little magical about strolling through a vineyard. It feels abundant and more than a little Mediterranean. Seriously. We totally felt like we had "escaped."

Wine country

We took some much needed time to relax in Old Town and do a lot of nothing.


(I particularly love this photo I took of Eric with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. Pretty sweet, no?)

We did a lot of reading and walking and coffee-having and wine tasting. It was pretty ideal all around.

There was only one thing missing from this perfect getaway....Cuban food.

So I asked 1000 of my closest friends (=D) on Facebook if anyone in the Temecula area knew of a good Cuban restaurant.

Screen shot 2011-06-23 at 2.28.18 PM

Obviously, Havana Kitchen was the name that came up over and over again, so we Googled and GPS'd and thanked God for smart phones (!) as we located the address to this Havana Kitchen that seemed so promising.

Havana Kitchen is located at:

41775 Elm Street #401
Murrieta, CA 92562

Hidden, and I do mean hidden - it took us a good 15 minutes to believe the sign - in an industrial park on a non-descript road we finally saw this sign on a door and felt like we had struck gold. Here's their fabulous logo with promises of Cuban amazingness inside.

"Eric, go check to see if it's a real place." (That's how unassuming it looks. Did I mention they're in an industrial park?)

Havana kitchen

We tentatively pushed open the door....

The ambience was perfect. All rich colors and salsa music. And then, the aroma hit us....

The perfect this-is-exactly-what-a-Cuban-restaurant-should-smell-like fragrance of mouth-watering sofrito.

The menu was all we wanted it to be. "Bistec de palomilla, please."  I ordered without thinking. I could almost taste the Trifecta of Cuban Awesomeness that is Onion-Garlic-Pepper. Palomilla and empanadas are my go-to's in a Cuban restaurant. If they can get those right, it's a winner in my book.


Add maduros, frijoles negros and arroz blanco, yuca frita, and an ice cold Coca-cola to the mix and it's a total WIN.

I introduced myself before I ordered the pastelitos de guayaba for dessert.

"Hi, I'm Marta from My Big, Fat, Cuban Family."

"¿Que? Marta!!" I was greeted like an old friend. Hugs and Cuban kisses followed. "Lunch is on the house." (I felt sooo accidentally cool.)

It just doesn't get any better than this. ;-)

{Disclaimer: The generous folks at Havana Kitchen treated us to this amazing lunch. However, the opinion that Havana Kitchen is The Best Cuban Restaurant in Southern California is my own. =D}

We didn't get to taste it, but rumor has it that they are also famous for their flan. AND (can this get any better?) you can order it online. Click here for the link.

Buen Provecho!