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Havana Joes in Pottstown--Good Chow, Great Service!

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I admit it; I’m not an “early adopter” in the eyes of the marketing community. I’d rather wait till the rest of you give that new place a try and see if it survives that critical first six months. Perhaps I’ve been whacked a few to many times by the chefs “new creation”. Given the barren wasteland of chow-less-ness along 422 west of Phoenixville, we felt inspired to give Havana Joes in Pottstown a try and I must say in brief, it was a great experience. Don’t miss it. (They don’t have a web-site, so look on West High street—you can’t miss it)

In this day and age of corporate “nuke and puke platters” served by untrained, disingenuous staff that could care less if you’re there or not, this place is the real deal—genuine honest chow, a great staff of friendly people and a lively atmosphere in which to dine. Plus, reasonable prices. The menu of tapas, entres and a few specials allowed many choices for us all. We began with a few (BYOB) beers and ordered the kids a chip and dip tapas and a chicken/cheese quesadilla for starters. The youngest pup (who is my strong willed one) was visibly upset when the waiter offered us the option of kids Mac-n-cheese, which I promptly declined. I insisted we should try the offerings rather than the old “kids meal stand by”. After all, if kids in Cuba can eat it, you can too.

OK now here is the key point. At some places, the management or staff would look upon us as “atmosphere wreckers, unruly or tempests” screwing up the dining experience during service by being stern and deliberate with our kids over rejected Mac-n-cheese. But not here. Kathy, the warmest and friendliest “front of house” person I’ve ever encountered, (and I’ve eaten worldwide) made a concerted effort to assure the pups that the chow was good and they should relax, draw some doodles and be patient for their parents. A few bites later, calmness prevailed. Well done Kathy!

My wife had the special of scallops over a lightly cheese sauced jalapeno pasta ($21?) which was excellent. This was accompanied by simple salad with mango accented vinaigrette which was also tasty. The scallops and cheese combination were a risky move in my world, pulled off exceptionally well. Delicate seafood with industrial strength cheese sauce could be dangerously treacherous chow, but Havana Joe (yes, there is a Havana Joe in the kitchen) had attained just the right balance in the dish and served up a very generous portion— 8+ scallops, easily. Good portions we were told were a standing order here. For me it was the empanadas. Make a good one and their great; make a bad one and you’re toast. These were SUPERB! Very fresh, nicely crisp, divine meat filling and HANDMADE with a simple salsa/dip on the side.

With a nice chat going with the genuinely friendly staff and owner (a good sign that she was there during service) we ordered a mango flan desert and watched as the kids inhaled. The mangos were perfect. The flan was gone by the time I lifted my spoon so you should go and be the judge. Now I admit I‘m not even close to an authority on Cuban cuisine, but the offerings appeared to be unique, and rooted in what one would imagine as true to form. I didn’t see a traditional Cuban sandwich though, so maybe I’ll have to become a good customer and politely ask for one. Which no doubt will be delivered as authentically as possible with a hearty and genuine “glad to see you, my friend”.
Please go and try it. Lord knows the area needs good chow.

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  1. Is this the same owner that briefly had a restaurant right on the southbound side 422 in Douglasville?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Greg P.

      I think so...but am not sure. What might you know?

      1. re: Peghead

        I don't know anything other than I had meant to try the 422 location but never got around to it. Well, the one day the wife and I decided to go, we pulled up in the parking lot to find it was closed for good.

    2. It's the same owner as the old 422 location. Fantastic place, I live about block from it, so I go there fairly regularly, and love it!

      1. The chipotle ribs are another good item. I recently tried the ropa vieja and enjoyed it, as well. Friendly staff, as mentioned above.

        Does anyone have any other dining recommendations in the Pottstown area?

        1 Reply
        1. re: munch_kin

          Word is that the Funky Lil Kitchen is great and not too far around the corner. I've not been yet because the have a table min on weekends.

          Chow On!

        2. The wife and I tried Havana Joe's this past Friday night and really enjoyed it.

          For appetizers, I had the Berenjenas Con Mermelada (fried eggplant) and the wifey had the the Argentine Beef Empanada. Both were fine though I think I liked the eggplant better than the empanada.

          For entrees, I had the Lechon Asado, which is a wonderfully slow roasted pork shank. Very nice! The wife had the Chipotle Q Ribs, which were very tasty, though not quite as tender as I thought they could be.

          Portions were VERY generous. So much so that we simply had no room for dessert. perhaps next time. The service was fine, especially considering that it was a busy Friday night.

          A couple things to remember if you go:

          1. It's BYOB, so don't forget to bring your own (no corkage fee).
          2. Reservations are recommended for Friday or Saturday night.

          We both highly recommend Havana Joe's, especially if you are looking for something just a little bit different. And in Pottstown too!

          1. I went to Havana Joe's last week for lunch and there are several sandwiches on the lunch menu. I have to agree that the staff were wonderful! Also things to know... They have free Salsa Dancing lessons on Wednesday nights if you eat dinner, live music on Thursday nights, and their BYOB includes a special... if you bring the rum, they will make the mojitos! Definitely a place to enjoy!

            1. I agree about Kathy. I have worked with her for years outside the restaurant business. She is very outgoing and personable. Funky Lil Kitchen is great. 232 King Street,
              www.funkylilkitchen.com 610-326-7400.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BRI328

                We also like Henry's on South Charlotte St. Somewhat odd vibe, but the food is very good, especially his version of carbonara and the goat cheese nachos. He always does a nice job with fish, beyond his delicious signature fish and chips with homemade hot sauce. The desserts are also homemade by Karen, who runs the front of the house. They are BYOB and cash only.

              2. I live in the Pottstown area, and was excited to read your review praising a local restaurant. I had a guest from the city in for the weekend and we decided to try Havana Joes. I couldn’t have been more disappointed.

                Unfortunately, we found the food to be mediocre at best. In general it just didn’t seem to be the quality I’d expect for the prices charged. A $14 nacho type appetizer was reminiscent of an Applebee’s; including the store bought, red and blue chips. I was shocked, even the most humble Mexican restaurants make their own tortilla chips. The entrees ($17 & $19) had similar problems, my guest commenting the rice tasted like it was “Uncle Ben’s”. I generally try to order the special, feeling this will be the freshest offering – again, no dice.

                The service was slow, even though there were only two other tables occupied. I had to ask for a refill of tea. It couldn’t tell if it was a bad night, or if they just didn’t care.

                Had I known the kind of experience awaiting us, I certainly would have never taken a guest. I was actually a little embarrassed I had suggested going there.

                Sorry – I won’t be back.

                1. We have been three times. The first was when Joe Sherpa was chef and it was very good. On our second visit we found that Joe was gone and there was a female chef from Columbia. It was not bueno. We tried a third time and doubt we'll go back.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: We_travel_for_good_food

                    Come on the place is much cleaner, food more fresh than it was before.
                    I went there two times when he was the chef it was foul. I appreciate the
                    effort the new people are making but you know if they moved that place
                    into any town that had more choices it would not last a month. Funky
                    kitchen is the only show in town at this point for fresh, creative dining

                  2. We were so excited to finally find a Cuban restaurant in the area, and when we arrived the atmosphere was decent so we got our hopes up. We began to get suspicious when items on the menu included chips and salsa and bean dip which are Mexican food items but definitely not Cuban.
                    We ordered the Lomo Asado (roasted pork) and the Camarones Enchilados(shrimp in red sauce). The roasted pork meal came with white rice which was definitely instant and beans which were not only from the can but also tasteless. The pork was tough not tender as lomo asado should be and there didn't seem to be any other seasoning but garlic on it. The camarones were not fresh and the sauce was made from canned stewed tomatoes. Again the spices were lacking and the rice again was instant of an Uncle Ben's quality.
                    The prices for the meals ranged from $17-25 but even if they were way less we wouldn't have eaten them. We left the restaurant hungry since the meals were so terrible we couldn't finish them and extremely disappointed.

                    Don't bother to go to the restaurant. Spend your money elsewhere.

                    1. Reading this thread, it is clear that Havanna Joe's is not what it was under the previous management. I have a child at school in Pottstown...where can I take her to eat in or very near (10-15 minutes) Pottstown?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: samsmom1127

                        My husband and I were very happy with our italian food at Angelina's on High Street:

                        http://finefoodandfun.com/page3-4/ang...

                        1. re: modbetty

                          Thanks BRI328 and modbetty. We'll try both of these. I will try Funky Lil Kitchen, too, but I'll need to call ahead about the menu. DD doesn't eat red meat or fish, but does eat poultry, game birds (except duck), and shellfish.

                      2. Kind of liked havana joes for something local and casual. The place looked vacated when I called several times recently, and even stopped in during posted hours. Does anyone know if they have closed for good?