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Dennis and I took a Friday off to explore the quaint Old Town Temecula. We've never been to this area before and it gave us a wild wild west yet touristy impression. Restaurants lined the main street while lively crowds refueled and conversed in the sitting areas. Despite gorging at Pechanga's Lobster & Seafood Buffet the prior evening, we wandered with a new roaring hunger. Havana Kitchen caught our eye with their Cuban dishes and seemed to be the perfect pick for our mood!
The restaurant was on a side street off the main road. The building itself was very unassuming and simple. A few two seater tables were scattered within the narrow patio area.
Once inside, it transformed into a homey yet bustling cafe. We heard there was always a line to order food and that we should keep an eye out for an open table!
While in line for 10-15 minutes, we couldn't help staring at these pastries in the display. Dennis eyed the key lime tart as we pondered over the full food menu. We opted for the standard Cuban sandwich as well as the sampler plate, which included empanadas. Multiple customers had been munching on these scrumptious little half moon shells and we wanted it too!
Original Cubano Sandwich ($8.49) - Cubano Mjojo roast pork, sliced gourmet ham, Cubano sauce, pickes & swiss (pressed)
After paying for food, we took our order number to an outdoor table. Food arrived in waves, served by a courteous server as soon as it was ready. Our hot and fresh Cubano started with a thin and crispy bread layer, then delved into the ham, pork and cheesy goodness. It was love at first bite for this filling sandwich. I admit we went home with a serious craving and made our own with homemade pulled pork. The side was a choice of sweet or chip plantains. We chose sweet, with the edges pan fried to a gorgeous crisp and deliciously caramelized!
Since we don't seem to have a picture of the bread topside, this is the best I can do. Ignore my finger claws haha.
Craving Sampler ($16.95) - 3 empanadas, 2 potato balls, 2 croquettes, 6 plantain maduros
Our sampler included three empanadas (bottom right), all with nicely fried crusts that were easy to bite and held everything together. The beef had a yummy curry taste but was on the oilier side.The chicken cilantro had finely shredded meat with a hint of "spices" and was Dennis's favorite. The third was a mix of sauted veggies with a light cheesiness that tasted healthy compared to the others. The first bite into the center mound of white rice reminded us of sticky rice texture but the aroma and taste was garlicky.
For the potato balls (top left), we sank our teeth into the outer fried panko shell, hit a thin potato layer and finally the savory beef filling. To me, the empanada version (top middle) felt even more savory without the potato soaking up the juices. The crunchy fried croquette (bottom left) tasted of pâté yet had a flatter taste overall. The yellow sauce was buttery with a subtle garlic kick (Dennis dipped everything into here) while the orange sauce seemed to be thousand island with a chipotle twist. The black beans had been stewed with onions and peppers and had that salted taste.
Dennis finally got his key lime pie (left side) on a more recent visit! The total for both desserts rang up to $10-11. The flavor of the key lime tart was spot on, not too tart, a light texture and an amazing crust. We ended up gobbling the entire thing after a bite despite planning to save for later. The dark pie was like an apple pie topped with pecans and a strong chocolate flavor. The drier texture led to pieces crumbling and making a mess.
Overall, we enjoyed our Havana Kitchen tasting and hope to return for more if we're nearby.
After lunch, we explored town a bit. Our first stop was the Old Town Sweet Shop. Dennis had built up a thirst following lunch so purchased some Calypso Lemonade to rehydrate.
Meanwhile, I was exploring the inside of the candy shop where I found the biggest gummy bear of my life! I'm sure there's some Guiness World Record that trumps this haha!
There were all kinds of cute novelty items such as this "I'd give up chocolate but I'm no quitter". Yes, that sounds like me!
Next was the Temecula Olive Oil Company. There's a back room where you can do some tastings of their oils and vinegars. One of my favorites is their garlic infused olive oil. We've seen them at several San Diego tasting events.
This stand in the middle of the store is where the seasonal items are displayed. This picture is prior to Valentines weekend.
We bought ourselves some handmade soaps to take home. I absolutely love the olive blossom scent!
We walked a little farther down the main street, browsed the Old Town Antique Faire, then decided to take one last pic before heading out for the day. Old Town Temecula can easily be a stop on the way home from Vegas since it is one minute from highway 15. Dennis mentioned it's also a wi-fi district which means you can get your internet for free within the town area. We were able to find some parking prior to noon though the streets seemed busier around our exit. There's definitely a return visit post coming soon... Are you a fan of intimate communities like Old Town Temecula?
41955 5th St #101
Temecula CA 92590