In the heart of Chokoloskee, the island connected to Everglades City, there is a piece of Havana, Cuba waiting for you to discover. Havana Café of the Everglades is a small hole in the wall restaurant that you will never forget after visiting. From delicious Cuban sandwiches to delectable seafood entrees, Havana Café serves the best Caribbean-style dishes. The owners and operators of the restaurant are Everglades City locals, Carlos and Dulce Valdes. You can find them there every day. Dulce will be found greeting you at the front with a contagious smile on her face, and over in the kitchen, Carlos is seen cooking alongside their employees. This restaurant is always busy no matter the time or the day.
Once you drive onto Chokoloskee Island it’ll be on your right in a salmon-colored building. You’ll know where it is before you get there because there will be cars lined up in the grass across the street since the parking lot is always full. The café is only open seasonally from October
15th through April 15th and serves breakfast 7-11 AM and lunch 11-4 PM daily. Once October 15th comes around, the locals flock to the café after craving it for months. I remember when I was still at Everglades City school, my friends and I would get takeout orders for lunch from there because we were too impatient to wait three more hours to get out of school for their food. My sister and I like to have breakfast there when I’m home, and my mother and I always have mother-daughter dates by getting their lunch.
It all began with Carlos having a dream to open a restaurant. He gained his love and passion for cooking from his mother. His dream became a reality when they opened back in 2005. Their family worked hard to get the restaurant going the first three years and used word of mouth to locals and visitors as their advertisement to gain customers. The restaurant itself is very alluring. The entrance shows steps leading up to the front porch where you can sit and eat while being shaded by a palm frond roof. The chalkboard on the right side of the front doors states the specials and when you walk in it opens up to a room of tables, a small, cozy room you can sit in on the left and the kitchen is open right in front of you. There is more seating out on the outdoor patio to the right surrounded by tropical plants, trees to shade you and vibrant colored flowers. The atmosphere is just wonderful.
My favorite thing to get from Havana Café is the pork sandwich with rice and beans, fresh plantains on the side and for dessert the most mouthwatering flan. When I go home for the weekend or a break from college, I always have to stop by at least once to get my favorite for lunch and say hi to Carlos and Dulce, and they always greet me with big smiles and hugs. They are some of the kindest people I know, and it is always so good to see them and catch up. My family has been friends with Carlos and Dulce since I was little, and I’ve had many memories with them while growing up. One of the memories was actually the one time I was helping at the café for fun one night with one of their nieces I went to school with. It was such a fun experience and I will cherish that memory forever. If you haven’t already eaten at the Havana Café of the Everglades, I highly recommend that you do! The food, atmosphere and staff are definitely worth the trip.