Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jul 23, 2009 11:02 PM

Vallejo: Havana Sol - finding the holy grill at last ... Authentic Cubanos with house-made Cuban bread

Earlier in the week, I stopped by Havana Sol for Happy Hour (M-F 4-6). The deals are $4 mojitos, $2 draft beers and $3 well drinks. They only serve sandwiches for lunch, so I ordered dinner which came with a large basket of bread.

I only had a slice and took the rest home.

First of all, it was very good bread. I couldn't place the bakery. It had some sesame seeds on top, but the unique thing about it was when I opened the box, it had this lovely citrus aroma though it didn't taste sweet.

When I went for the Cubano today, I asked about the dinner bread. The server said that it was Cuban water bread. The Cuban chef made it in-house and the recipe had been handed down for generations in his family.

There seem to be a lot of variations on the recipe for this bread

After taking a bite of the wonderful Cubano, I asked if the chef also made the roll for the sandwich. Yes he did. There was also something about having the correct press for the sandwich so the fluffy bread could be compressed. The grilled section crackled and there was a layer of compressed white bread. The roast pork was wonderful and very flavorful. The cured ham was lovely, the crunchy, house-made Cuban pickles were perfect and there was the right amount of Swiss cheese.

It has been sooo long since I've been in Miami, I am blanking on the actual bread used ... however, this was better than my memory of any Cubano I had back there. It sort of looked like this, only with a little more compressed white bread between crust and filling

It comes with a nice slaw that has a lot of flavor going on in it. And I am in love, love, love with the platano chips. These are like potato chips, only made out of plantains sliced very thinly, the long way, They are crisp and greaseless.

They are still setting up. They won't have Cuban coffee until tommorrow when the staff will be trained in how to prepare it properly.

This is a wonderful restaurant. A nice and stylish restaurant comes to Vallejo at last.

Not that there aren't a lot of tasty mom and pops, but outside of that, dining is like something out of the mid-20th century with the food to match.

This is nicely done. It could be Havana had things progressed there. No schockly decorations. The tables are black wood, the walls muted beige and brown. There are some tables with light beige sofa-type banquettes. The ceilings are high and fans turn lazily. A few large bright pictures are on the wall, but even they are toned down with black accents

This is an excellent date restaurant. At night there are softly glowing candles on the tables and there is a large grand piano in the back. On the weekends there is (or will be) live music.

There's a nice bar area with one tv playing sports and the other flashing photos from modern day Cuba.

It is a comfortable restaurant. Not out of step with Vallejo ... ther bar was filled during happy hour and even at 5pm there were a few diners in the back having dinner. During lunch today there were about a half dozen tables filled.

Off the side of the bar there is a little a little lounge with some wicker couches. There are a few sidewalk tables.

I'm gettting a bit psyched about this chef's baking. I see myself having a nice dessert and a Cuban coffee out at the sidewalk table really soon.

I had a wrong impression of the menu. It is not a California take on Cuban food. It is Cuban food done well. It is not a Sol Food type of place. As much as I like Sol Fooe,, the food there is revised for American, especially California, tastes.

This is the best Cuban food I've had in the Bay Area so far. Way better than the now closed Laurel. More serious and better than the also closed Mambo.

Thanks to ricebowl for the heads up. I started a new thread because the name of the restaurant was incorrect in that thread and there was a discussion that this was Mexican food. It is not. It is solidly Cuban. Here's another positive report at the end of that thread

Havana Sol
326 Virginia St, Vallejo, CA

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Woot! Woot! Adding to favorite topics. I live in Solano county and we almost NEVER get one good enough to post.

    1. If the chef is Cuban and so serious about the cuisine that he's baking his own bread to get the sandwiches right, I'm driving to Vallejo to check it out. It's still weird that he has Mexican dishes like guacamole with tortilla chips on the menu, but I don't have to order them.

      They've got happy hour specials listsed on twitter:

      1. Thank you, rw, for the good and thorough review. I knew I could count on you to provide an accurate evaluation of the food after all the confusion of "well, is it this or is it that?". LOL. My apology also in adding to the confusion by the incorrect name of the restaurant, but heck, there's only one Cuban restaurant named "Havana..." in Vallejo! So go figure it out. Anyway, it seems that some are still hung up on the guacamole + tortilla = Mexican and not authentic Cuban food. While that may be true, it does not mean that Havana is not solidly Cuban. I mean you can go to some Chinese restaurants and find teriyaki or kalbi on the menu, right? Or to a Mexican restaurant that serves the Salvadorean dish, pupusa. What's wrong with that? It's the restaurant owner and/or chef's preference to include these dishes. Anyway, I am looking forward to trying Havana very soon. I have my eye on the Cubano sandwich, oxtails, short ribs and seafood dishes! :)

        1 Reply
        1. re: ricebowl

          My guess is the guac and chips are big money makers. If it's a small mom and pop place in an area that doesn't get a lot of culinary buzz, well you have to go with stuff that makes $. Certainly the "items not particular to that cuisine" can be a bad sign but guac and chips are hard to screw up.

        2. I can't stop about arepas. Never had them, but saw them on a "throw down".

          1. Thanks rworange,
            We live in Vallejo and usually schlep to Berkeley or Napa for our weekend dinners. We have had really really bad experiences with Vallejo restaurants (food poisonings, vulgar & annoying tirades by staff, etc.) and have given up on eating in Vallejo. This Havana place sounds very intriguing and promissing and we will definitely give it a try.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ridge

              We keep trying since it's our hometown and could use our business.
              Chain or not, Pasta Pomodoro usually makes us happy.
              Little Italian restaurant at Columbus/Rose - seems to be a satellite of Venticelli in Benecia -
              very tasty, no great atmosphere though