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Cafe Habana Malibu

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While this restaurant has only been open about a week, and I want to be fair, there's really not a whole lot they can fix when the food is just plain bad.

We were there four hours, from sign in to leaving, mostly thanks to being ignored for 30 minutes at a time (after being served our first drink, after being served our meal...), and our food wasn't bused for a full 40 minutes, but this is really a food review sharing site, so....

Every one of us had a bad meal. Either food came undercooked, or overcooked, or was over-salted, or cold (cold rice and beans are not good, undercooked beans are the worst). It's meant to be a cuban restaurant, but the only thing on the menu resembling cuban is their chicken (and there's a pulled pork), and the chicken is what I would get if forced to go there again. I should mention their guacamole is outstanding (but so is Howdy's around the corner, and half the price). No one ordered the pulled pork sandwich, so someone will have to report back on that. Avoid anything with skirt steak on the menu (there are a couple incarnations of it).

Bartenders incredibly nice and are overworked (any menu that features mojitos as their one specialty drink means bartenders can't get to you for a while), but waiting 20 minutes from ordering to receiving a drink is 15 minutes too long. The waitress couldn't have been sweeter, but the hostess needs a serious attitude adjustment. Every interaction with her was a nightmare. I can't imagine a reason to go back, not even to just get a drink.

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  1. that's a bummer. the food at the NY locations has never been spectacular, but it's also not out-and-out bad (or at least it didn't used to be). the grilled corn and tostones were always worth getting. i think i read somewhere a while back that they were creating a more California-friendly menu for the Malibu location, which made absolutely no sense to me.

    FWIW, even the NY locations have never been considered straight Cuban, they're sort of a Cuban/Latin/Mexican mishmash....and the service sucks there as well.

    1. That seems consistent with all the yelp reviews I've seen as well. LA will have to wait for great Cuban food.

      1. Bummer, as I wanted to try this place, and I really love Cuban food. Thanks for the heads up, maybe Red O is sounding better,even tho it's much farther for us on the westside.

        PS - your link is incorrect, just fyi.

        1. Hey give them a chance. They have just opened. My wife and I had a great meal there. The grilled corn is outstanding and my wife can't wait to go back for the fish dish. The service was a little slow but they will work out the kinks. If you want to be rushed through a great dining experience don't go out in Malibu, this is a laid back community. If you want authentic Cuban food go to Miami or Cuba.

          1. fyi, the place listed in ur addy is not the same as the cafe habana in malibu.

            1. Cafe Habana??? I was very excited to try this new restaurant. I am Cuban decent so I was raised in a Cuban household. Therefore, I know a little bit about Cuban Food... I sat down at the table and the first thing they brought us was chips and salsa???? I said humm Chips and Salsa in a Cuban Restaurant?? seems strange... then I looked at the menu Chicken burritos, Steak Burritos, Guacamole, Quesadillas, huevos Rancheros, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, ????? .......there are only 3 Cuban things on the entire menu 1 Cuban Sandwich, 2 Black beans, and 3 Sweet Plantains. I asked the waitress why were there not more Cuban items on the menu and she said "jokingly well the menu was printed on Cuban Paper"

              I can understand that Cuban food does not have to be the traditional Miami Cuban food however if you have a restaurant Called Habana Cafe the food should have some Cuban influence even a little????

              The food was not bad it was just ok however, if you are looking for Cuban food go some where else and if you want ok Mexican food go to Habana Cafe!!!! They should rename this restaurant Guadalajara Cafe, or something like that not Habana Cafe!!!! I think this restaurant owner is confused....They truly need to pick what they are they going to be Cuban, or Mexican, or American!!!!

              Its a nice looking restaurant in a good location I wish them the best of luck. Owners please re-think the menu or change the name. I truly wish them the best of luck I hope they do something quick before they go out of business!!!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Nadim

                as i said in my post above, this place is a chain, even the original New York locations have never been authentic Cuban, and this particular offshoot was modified even further for what they thought would be better suited to the demographic...whether that was wise or correct doesn't really matter, it is what it is. Malibu isn't Miami.

                sure, the name might be misleading to someone who wanders in without doing any advance recon on the place, but they're not going to change it. if you want something more authentic, try El Criollo in Van Nuys, La Cubana in Glendale, or El Colmao in Mid-City.

                El Criollo
                6622 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91405

                El Colmao
                2328 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

                La Cubana Restaurant
                135 North Maryland Avenue, Glendale, CA

                El Criollo
                13245 Victory Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91401

                La Cubana Restaurant
                1027 Mariposa St, Glendale, CA 91205

              2. Yogachik, you crack me up. Not even for a drink? Listen, if you can't be honest, you really shouldn't give your opinion..... joking of course.

                Yeah, it's pretty mediocre at best. Drinks are weak. There was one thing I had one day that was very good, which was the pulled pork sandwich, sans sandwich. It was just plates of pork, beans, accoutrements. I liked it. And Nadim --- yes! Burritos? I was thinking the same thing. I think there are tacos on the menu too. Bizarre. But maybe the owners thought it might be too dangerous to offer something too specific in this fickle, wierd business place of Malibu. I can understand wanting to please the crowds, because here you are lucky when you get one. Right?

                Anyway, I think that if it something calls itself something -- it should be THAT. Cuban? Be freaking Cuban. Go all the way.

                This all being said, I do like the teak on the patio.

                1. The New York original (on Prince & Elizabeth) also has burritos and tacos and burgers, but it has been around so long (at least 20 years, as it was there when I lived across the street then) no one really thinks about the disconnect between the menu and the name there. It just is what it is, Cafe Habana, the famous/overrated mixed-menu cafe with the Cuban name and the line out the door. The food at the original is hit and miss, a few things great, but otherwise just okay. But it's a huge hipster destination now, more about the see-and-be-scene than the actual food. One of those places that's inexplicably busy for what it is. Like Toast on 3rd.

                  The move to the west coast was clearly an effort to capitalize on the brand name, and some NY ex-pats will surely be eager to play along. But I'd wager they won't be able to skim by on their east coast reputation for long, especially way out in Malibu. Had they opened in Hollywood or thereabouts, I think they might have been able to get a lot more “transplant” press. Instead, they will just have to sink or swim on the actual food and service. The long term quality of which remains to be seen.

                  2930 Bristol St Ste A110, Costa Mesa, CA 92626