I apologize for backtracking slightly in the process of catching up on these posts. Some places or activities…either planned, suggested by locals I happened to meet on the road, or purely by accident…in hindsight, became things I thought some folks might be interested in knowing about. Habana Restaurant on South Congress Avenue (aka SoCo) in Austin was one of these.
I stumbled onto Habana Restaurant by accident, as GPS was taking me to an ATM in Austin, just before I was about to head to San Antonio for three days. I literally just caught a glimpse of Habana’s unlit neon sign on a rustic building tucked down a little embankment, peeking out from behind some tree branches on the opposite side of SoCo as I was driving by. I was a little hungry. And that’s all it took.
I found my ATM…googled “Habana restaurant Austin”…was informed that it is primarily a Cuban restaurant, turned my car around and headed straight for this unassuming little hideaway.
I am always attracted to buildings that transport you somewhere else as soon as you walk in. Habana is this kind of place.
I arrived a little after the Wednesday lunch rush, to find I nearly had the restaurant to myself. A friendly woman, wearing what I assumed was a server’s uniform, greeted me and escorted me to a table. In my now-familiar habit, I jokingly explained that I was a tourist, on this road-trip…had never had Cuban cuisine before and could really use some help ordering lunch.
She said I should start with a Mojito, so I went with that. I have had a Mojito maybe once, and I only remember it tasting like it came from a mix. But, this was the real deal, including bitters, a little granulated sugar at the bottom and fresh mint leaves. I could have sipped these all day, if I wasn’t going anywhere.
After describing a couple of options to me, she suggested the Masitas de Puerco (chunks of pork, marinated in Cuban seasonings and lightly fried), which came with a rice and bean dish. She also mentioned the Chulitas Fritas (fried pork chops), but still recommended the Masitas. So, I went with the Masitas.
When a different young woman came over with my lunch, this second woman quietly said, “You’re very lucky. You just got waited on by one of the owners.” There was also more to my lunch than I had ordered. It included a pork chop and a second side dish of boiled, seasoned Yucca with onions. The Yucca is similar to a potato dish. The owner had added these without my knowledge.
The first woman, who then introduced herself as Yasbel Flores, owns Habana with her husband, Ron. Yasbel continued to check in on me, and we ended up chatting for quite a while. She was so down-to-earth and I felt honored that she would spend time just chatting.
Here’s a quick cellphone snapshot of Yasbel. I love her smile:
I told Yasbel more about where I’m from, this road-trip, the blog (yes, I gave her my greeting card). She told me about her high school aged daughter(s)…which related to my blog…more about sightseeing and vacationing in Texas, what Cuba is like (Yasbel is Cuban), and suggested that I take a trip to Cuba, especially because of my love of photography. Cuba was already pretty much on my list, and now I really hope to go…and before too long.
Needless to say, lunch itself, was amazing. So, if you ever find yourself in Austin, I would definitely treat yourself to Habana…and definitely go when you have time to linger over some Mojitos.
Is anyone beginning to see a pattern emerging? I was gradually evolving into an accidental foodie over the course of this road-trip. And the “worst” is yet to come…or at least more of the same.
Actually, I blame my friend, Joni, who suggested that I post some images of interesting meals I encounter on the road.
16 thoughts on “Austin, TX – Habana Restaurant…”
Happy to take full responsibility Phil!
Tks, Joni! Glad you’re willing to take the heat!
I just love how you find these places and the chats you have with the staff/owners.
I don’t really know how it happens, myself, except that I approach these trips sort of wide-eyed and a bit naive, and am not afraid to show those sides of myself to the people I meet along the way.
People seem to really open up quickly, when you demonstrate genuine curiosity and interest in their world and in what they are doing.
It’s really been an honor for me to get to know a bit about all of these people and what they love doing. And I’m glad that I seem to be able to figure out how to express these experiences in words and photos, for others to enjoy.
That sounds like such an incredible unexpected adventure! The best kind 🙂 This truly sounds like a wonderful restaurant to visit! I might try to seek it out on my trip to Austin in March! 🙂
Hi guineapigtraveler! Thanks so much for your comment!
Yes, when you’re in Austin, I would definitely try to check out Habana Restaurant. You might also want to look into the Salt Lick BBQ (and winery) in Dripping Springs, which is just outside of Austin, and a beautiful drive.
Also Heche en Mexico restaurant in Austin…aMaZiNG Mexican cuisine (see my post, just a couple before the Habana post).
I checked out your Buckeye Lake Winery post. Your style of writing is similar to mine. You bring the reader into the experience to share it with you. Thanks again for stopping by! Happy Trails!
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Thanks! And actually you’re not the first person to recommend salt lick so that’s apparently a must do! 🙂 thank you so much for checking out my blog as well!
You’re quite welcome. Oh, really?! Cool! The Salt Lick is a very cool place. It’s big, but very pleasant and laid back. Be sure to try the pecan pie. It has custard mixed into the traditional filling. SO good. And you’ll love the drive out in the Hill Country countryside to get there. Good luck!
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Yes my cousin has been there and loved it! Excited to go thanks for the advice 🙂
Oh! That’s great! You’ll love it. All o the BBQ at the Salt Lick was really good. But, I think we were partial to the burnt ends.
If you have the time, you might want to see more of the Hill Country. Your cousin probably knows it well. Enchanted Rock is a very cool short but steep hike with amazing views. I’m sure your cousin is familiar. Good luck!
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Thanks! She was actually only there for a short visit so these things are good to know! We are considering going to Hamilton pool if possible as well but it would have to involve an Uber or car rental as we will be flying in to Austin 🙂
Oh! I thought she lives there. Sorry. Hamilton Pool is amazing, and I think it’s ain the vicinity of the Salt Lick… Dripping Springs. I’m not sure Uber would work for parks, like Hamilton Pool, but I’ve never used it. If you can afford to rent a car, you’d have a lot more flexibility to go where you’d want and feel secure that you wouldn’t get stranded going to any of the parks.
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No worries! oh that would be fantastic if I could swing by everything in one day! Sounds like a good investment in a rental for a day! 🙂
There is SO much to see and do in the Hill Country. It’s a beautiful area. I spent four days there on the road trip last fall…scenic drives, hiking, horseback trail riding, great food. You could plan a beautiful, full day, doing a mix of things there, very easily, if you rent a car. Also, maybe check out the live outdoor music at Luckenbach Texas, which isn’t too far from that part of the Hill Country.
And there are so 60+ wineries in the Hill Country. SO much to do.
I’m sure you’ll plan a great day. I’m jealous, just thinking about it.
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Since I love wineries and horses as well as beautiful scenery, you have me sold! 🙂 I think this definitely merits a day trip!
That’s great! Okay…so, now you’re really in trouble….good trouble, that is…
Here are a few places/activities you might want to check out to help plan your day trip…or if you can swing it…a weekend in Austin and the Hill Country. I posted about most of these in this blog. You just have to scroll backward through the posts to find them.
1) Hill Country wineries… If you google “Texas Hill Country Wine Trail” you should find the site that lists info about these 60+ wineries. There are a lot of them scattered along Highway 290, west of Austin, which is a local road and main artery through a portion of the Hill Country.
2) Horseback Trail-Riding… definitely check out the Dixie Dude Ranch in Bandera, which is known as the Cowboy Capital of Texas, and is located in sort of the southwest part of the Hill Country. They are the oldest continuously operating dude ranch in the Hill Country and operate the most trail rides. They have intentionally kept things very rustic, so you can really get in touch with your inner-cowboy/cowgirl. Contact them in advance, because dude ranch guests get first choice for available rides, but they accept “day riders”, if space allows…which it did when I went. I had a blast. The countryside in Bandera is beautiful and the horses are well-cared for.
3) Also in downtown Bandera are the 11th Street Cowboy Bar and Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar Saloon. Both are great venues, but Arkey Blue’s is a “real deal” old fashioned, sawdust on the dance floor honky-tonk with great local live country bands. It is also located in a basement off the main street. It’s just a very cool place. This would be a great place to end an evening if you decided to make a weekend of the Hill Country.
4) The Double U Barr Ranch B&B guest ranch, also in Bandera… this is THE perfect place to lodge overnight, if you made a weekend of the Hill Country. The owners, Brett and his lovely wife, Gil, are amazing hosts and they cook amazing breakfasts for guests. The ranch only has two cozy guest cottages, and both are decorated with Texas cowboy decor. They have a few longhorn steer in a corral, and wild deer hang out all the time in their front yard. An armadillo was hanging out, outside of my cabin when I arrived. Very cool.
5) Short two-hour day-hikes… I already mentioned Enchanted Rock, which is amazing. But, also check out Lost Maples Natural Area. Take the East Trail and hike it counter-clockwise (the steep sections are a little easier in this direction). Great views along the ridge.
6) Back in Austin, if you’re there on a Sunday afternoon, then you HAVE to check out “Chicken Shit Bingo” at the Little Longhorn Saloon (I have a post about this. I’ve been there twice). Just check out my post, or the Little Longhorn Saloon site. This is not to be missed.
7) The Broken Spoke honky-tonk in Austin. This is a historic honky-tonk…concrete dance floor with salt sprinkled on it to help you slide. This is an Austin landmark, and makes for a hoot of a night out. The decor is basically the same as when it opened in 1964 (I think).
There’s much, much more, but these are just a few ideas to help get you started with your planning. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time!