I recently met up with a girlfriend for brunch at Havana, and before I went, I had to go back through the Brunchcouver archives. I just assumed that this staple of the Brunchcouver community had already been covered here.
Turns out, no. I was pretty surprised, and was excited have the opportunity to right the wrong.
Havana is a staple on the Drive. I’ve been living back in Vancouver since 1996, and I can’t ever remember it not being there (their website says they’ve been in business 19 years).
The space also houses and art gallery and a theatre, and those of you, who, like me, have participated in the Fringe will be very familiar with this space.
But today was not about the arts, it was about the culinary arts.
I was surprised to get a table right away on this Sunday morning, although we were pretty early (still on the am side) for brunch.
The space hasn’t changed at all in all the years I’ve been coming here. Havana’s signature, of course, are the walls, which bear thousands of carvings of names of guests from the distant past.
It’s bright and cheery, but it also has that dive-like quality that you’d expect to find from a restaurant with a name like Havana. Located on Commercial Drive.
The service is exemplary. Sure, the servers have multi-coloured hair and lots of tats, but it’s Commercial Drive! I’d be disappointed if they didn’t. They are super friendly, laid-back, and almost too regular with the coffee fill-ups. I never saw the bottom of my cup.
It’s Sunday, so if brunch cocktails are in order, there are lots to choose from. The brunch classic, the Caesar, gets a smoky touch with chipotle tabasco, and there are, as you’d expect, margaritas and pisco sours, as well. Havana, however, is especially famous for their mojitos and sangrias.
The menu is, of course, heavily Latin-inspired. The omelette is made with chorizo, as is the hash. You can also order Huevos Rancheros, or the Latin Breakfast: three scrambled eggs, rice, spicy red beans, a grilled flour tortilla, topped salsa, sour cream, and green onions. Many Huevos Rancheros poach the eggs in a tomato-based sauce, but here, it’s a much less messy version. A huge tortilla makes a bowl for the dish, then it’s heaped with the most amazing, slow-roasted, spicy red beans, and topped with 3 fried eggs. The whole dish is finished off with a scoop of sour cream, salsa, green onions, and a little cheese. Yum! Also: hearty. I can’t really say enough good things about the beans. I don’t know the last time I loved beans so much!
Other menu selections are inspired by West Coast Cuisine. You’ll find, for example, a Crab benny, or a breakfast wrap packed with eggs, Canadian cheddar and bacon.
If sweet is your thing at brunch, look no further than the French Toast: it’s stuffed with white chocolate, banana and mascarpone cheese, then crusted with crushed Cap’n Crunch cereal, and served with maple syrup, fruit compote, and whipped cream. They had me at Cap’n Crunch crust.
Havana is also one of the dozen-or-so places in the city that serves Chicken and Waffles (see the complete list here). The chicken is boneless, which is exactly how I like it, and you can choose to have yours either sweet (with maple syrup and a fruit compote) or savory (with a coconut gravy and veg/salad). Unable to decide, we got ours with both the maple syrup and the coconut gravy, and boy, did we choose right. I’m not a huge fan of gravy with my chicken ‘n’ waffles. I’m a purist, and I like them with just maple syrup, but the coconut gravy was sweet and perfect with this dish.
The waffles were maybe the best I’ve had with chicken and waffles in the city. The problem with waffles is that they go soggy so quickly, especially if they have a big ol’ piece of fried chicken up on top of them. These ones were crispy through and through. The chicken was good–the thick breading was tasty–but a little dry.
There are also vegetarian options here, as well–a veggie hash and a veggie benny.
The portion sizes are big, and the prices are really reasonable, in the $10-15 range.
So, let’s just say that there’s a reason Havana is still slinging plates of eggs 20 years later. The food is flavourful and spicy, and it’s a fuss-free, easy brunch option any day of the week.
1212 Commercial Drive
Brunch daily from 10 am