Midtown Happy Hour: $1 Empanadas Make Tuesdays at Havana Central The Place to Be
f you like to eat, chances are you like to drink (read: a lot of you are freakin’ lushes), so I thought maybe it was time to introduce a happy hour column to the site. Every week, our Happy Hour Correspondent “Mamacita” will post about a different bar in Midtown that fits the Midtown Lunch mentality: unhealthy food, not lame (unless it’s lame in a cool way), and most importantly… cheap.
As a kid, my mom used to bake empanadas filled with cajeta de guayaba as a small treat. Years later my love for this simple and humble tapa in all its cultural versions has not diminished. I can’t pass up a crispy fried pastelito from a street cart in Brooklyn, or the flakey pastry surrounding a spicy Jamaican patty, and Chilean empanadas have now been in my rotation in the rare instances I can find them. Recently I heard about Havana Central’s happy hour and $1 empanada Tuesdays. Now considering Havana’s proximity to Times Square and its Vegas like neon sign flashing “Havana” it is the perfect tourist eye candy and something I try an avoid in general. Yet, the lure of dirt-cheap empanadas and maybe a mojito to wash it down was too strong for this girl. I took the bait (pfft, like you wouldn’t have?)
The midtown’s Havana Central is quite large and its two level dinning room is decorated in vintage posters and elegant 20s style milk-glass lighting fixtures. Happy hour is 4 to 7pm with $5 mojitos, $4 sangria and $3 draft beers. The long mahogany bar is always crowded, even on a Tuesday, but the Latin bartenders are quick on the job and my order of a mojito and Dos Equis draft was in my hands within 3 minutes. The mojito was pre-made which is reasonable given that mulling every drink for such a busy crowd would require three times the man power. It came with lots of fresh mint, a female silhouette shaped swizzle stick and a big stalk of sugar cane. Man, I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I chewed on sugarcane. This wasn’t very sweet, not as fresh, but it was a welcome addition.
I ordered the chicken, beef, shrimp and Cubano empanadas. I wasn’t sure what to expect or if the four would be enough of a bar snack for my date and I. Each fried empanada came out hot and golden. The shrimp and chicken seemed to have the same tomato based sauce inside that was a bit bland and not particularly notable. The beef was filled with seasoned ground beef with a nice salty bite. The Cubano was the surprise hit with ham, pork and a pickle inside. One bite into it and some delicious meat-juice dripped out. It may have had some cheese in it too, but the other flavors won out and I didn’t notice it over my eagerness to devour it.
Obviously I’m not Cuban so I can only vouch for the flavor not authenticity. Both the beef and Cubano are worth the full price ($2.50) and during happy hour I can see 6 of these plus drinks making an unhealthy but great dinner (ha! If you cared about that you wouldn’t read this site!). I regret not trying the goat cheese and spinach empanada as you really can’t miss with fried pastry and cheese. Maybe next time.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say about it)
- Very cheap draft beer ($3) is a welcome surprise in what could otherwise be a pricey restaurant
- $1 empanadas, and they’re not being sold out of a cooler on the street corner?? Hell yeah!
- Lovely decor and expansive dinning area makes this a great spot for large parties, or get there early to snag some seats at the bar for happy hour
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say about it)
- Dinner menu items are not in the ML range
- Bar is very crowded, so if you get off work at say 6pm, you’re going to have to wait
- I’m Cuban and picky about the authenticity of my eats
Havana Central, 151 West 46th Street (btw. 6+7th), 212-398-7440