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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
A PERSONAL REVIEW OF RESTAURANTS AROUND THE WORLD

HAVANA-JAX CAFE
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA

We spent 2 1/2 years in Jacksonville and during that time I have been on a quest to locate and devour a perfect Cuban sandwich.  Having lived in the Tampa Bay area twice and frequenting some great Cuban restaurants in Ybor City and elsewhere in the Bay Area, I think I know a little something about the famous Cuban treat.

Havana-Jax Cafe and Cuba Libre Bar was a likely starting point.  Their web site said they had been picked out as one of the best Cuban restaurants in Jacksonville.  So on one Saturday around noon, my wife and I set out on a trip there.

We were greeted at the door by a very nice, smiling Spanish host and quickly seated.  In fact, we were the first in the restaurant that day around 12:15pm.  It was nice and clean and somewhat eclectic.

I honestly thought the prices were a little high.  A Cuban sandwich went for $8.50 and a cup of black bean soup (a must have at a Cuban place) was, as I recall, $3.95.

My wife chose a special.  For $8.50 she got a half Cuban sandwich and a cup of the soup.  My appetite was a little more fierce, so I got a whole Cuban and a cup of the soup.

I'm sorry to say but the Cuban sandwich was a huge disappointment.  The bread wasn't the typical Cuban bread I got used to in Tampa and didn't have the palm frond imprint like you find down in Tampa.  The meat and cheese were okay but nothing that screamed of being delicious.  The soup, while decent and flavorful, was not quite as good as we are used to getting in Tampa.  For one thing, not enough onions.  And we weren't offered a drizzle of olive oil on top.

The menu listed some interesting Cuban and Caribbean dishes.  We're going to go back sometime next time we're down there and try some of the other items.  One couple who came in shortly after we got there ordered some meat dishes and they looked good and authentic.  And if you've never had a Cuban sandwich, you might really enjoy one here.  It's just that when you've been to what I consider to be ground zero (Miami or Tampa) for this type of meal, Havana-Jax Cafe just didn't measure up.

For complete details on this place including menu items and vectors, log onto their web site here.