Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stick to Cigars

My travels recently brought me once again to the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn. Actually, I will be spending a fair amount of time there, as I am moving in just next door! Recently I got an apartment in Clinton Hill, near the Pratt Institute, with five other roommates. Should be exciting, collegiate-like, times. The neighborhood is very bohemian. Very diverse. In a word: awesome.

While in town, I had the chance to patronize another apparently semi-famous area restaurant, and, to my surprise, I was pretty disappointed. This place came highly recommended from a friend and when I stumbled upon it in my directionless meandering, I was excited to give it a chance. Here's the skinny:
It's called Habana Outpost, on 757 Fulton Street.
The first thing that will shock you about this place is the set-up. Actually, the set-up is a bit intimidating (I'll get to that later). Forget pretty hostess showing you a table. Here, you walk in to the tiled main room (it felt almost Moroccan with its extensive use of colored tiles), order your food from the wall-mounted menu, pay, and then bring your order receipt to the outdoor seating area to a perpetually parked truck which contains the restaurant's kitchen. A bit unnecessary if you ask me, but cute, and it adds to the DIY atmosphere. Sit down, wait for your food, then grab it from the truck.

The food? Disappointing. The atmosphere? Inviting... kind of.

I ordered a Cuban Sandwich ($7.50), which consisted of roast pork, ham, cheese, pickles, and chipolte mayo on a hoagie. The first shock was that nothing comes with the sandwich. Nothing. Just the sandwich on a paper plate. Honestly, come on. For $7.50, throw me a little rice and beans for christsake. On top of that, the sandwich was nothing to dance over (despite the great Latin tunes playing over the loud speaker). The pork was dry, pretty tasteless, and had an almost tuna fish like texture. It was filler and it was obvious. The rest of the ingredients were standard deli items, decidedly not great quality, leaving me with the unfortunate feeling that I could have made this sandwich just as easily (if not a little better, to be honest) and saved a bunch of money. Even the bread was boring! Toast it, roast it... anything. It was just.... bread. White, plain, boring bread. The sandwich's predominant flavor was the chipolte mayo, which was good. It wasn't great. It was spicy and good (and a complete mess. Bring a garden hose to clean up after this one). To top it off: they were out of their $2.50 draft beers. Goddammit. Even if it was Pisswasser, a $2.50 beer is a thing to be cherished in my book.

Outdoor seating was a welcome change that I eagerly partook in. Sitting beneath the over sized, colorful umbrellas, jotting down notes rather conspicuously, I reflected on how I almost didn't walk inside. This is one of those places where you feel like you need to know what you are doing in order to step inside. It's a tiny bit intimidating. What's with the outdoor benches? Where do I order? Things like that can turn a shy person away. To stereotype, most of Brooklyn is not the type to shy away from the eclectic, so maybe not everybody felt the same way as I.

Overall, this is an alternative to having lunch at a deli. Don't expect gourmet Cuban cuisine. You pay for the atmosphere. Also, don't bring a serious date or a business partner. The food is too messy and you'll probably sweat your balls off outdoors. Pit stains don't help awkward conversation.
The only reason I would come back here is because the restaurant is very eco-friendly and seems involved in the community. I respect that, and even if the food leaves something to be desired, kind, environmentally conscious owners and a friendly waitstaff is enough to get me to come back.

I give Habana Outpost 3.5 Coronas. If I come back, I'll try the burrito and hopefully have a beer.

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