In June 2002, the first Havana Central location opened its Union Square doors showcasing traditional Cuban cuisine, and a culturally infused dining room that features lively Cuban music and pre-Castro era artifacts. Now, boasting two locations in Times Square and on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, as well as a new spot in Westchester, New York, Havana Central continues to dish out the spirit of the 1950s golden era of Cuba to diners.
As Havana Central’s first employee dating back to April 2002, Chef Stanely Licairac loves pleasing his customers. Brooklyn born and raised, the 38-year-old hails from a Dominican Republic-born father and Puerto Rican mother, and cherishes his Latin background. He explains, “It’s very family-oriented here. To this day I’ll call my mother and grandmother every day in Florida and we’ll test new dishes in our kitchens and check in with each other the following day. We have 230 employees at Havana Central and most have a Latin American background — Cuban, Colombian, Puerto Rican, Dominican — and I ask them to taste everything. If 230 people give their seal of approval, I’m good!”
According to Licairac, creating high quality, authentic Cuban cuisine boils down to one main ingredient: passion. Havana Central’s dishes evoke that Latin emotion, from the comfort of signature handmade empanadas to a perfectly executed ropa vieja. Paying homage to both traditional and contemporary Cuban dishes, as well as their signature cocktails, is key. Crafted with the help of a leading mixologist, Havana Central’s mojito recipe is still a closely guarded secret more than a decade after its creation.
In celebration of the close of National Pork Month, Havana Central and Chef Stanley Licairac have shared of the restaurant’s pork recipes with TLK.
If you can’t make it to New York, get in the kitchen, call your mom in Florida, and try these at home!