Getting back to business: Havana Café wants to lure you back to Chokoloskee

Linda Ickes
Special to the Eagle

Havana Café of the Everglades reopened for winter season, right on schedule.

As you drive through Everglades City and pass over the bridge to Chokoloskee Island, you’ll pass piles of hurricane debris as you venture back to old Florida and upon an authentic Cuban restaurant. “Don’t be afraid to come down to Chokoloskee Island. We’re ready!” said owner Dulce Valdes. “We are here, we are ready to rock the season down” added Carlos Valdes, co-owner of Havana Café.

Havana Cafe team on opening day, Oct 15.

After Hurricane Irma pushed a nearly 9-foot surge of water upon Chokoloskee Island, the Havana Café team, several of whom just accepted jobs with Havana Cafe, started the season with the task of clean-up. Power washing muck, clearing downed vegetation and the repair of kitchen equipment, all within about a 3-week time frame was a labor of love and community building. When Havana Café opened its kitchen and patio on October 15, the stream of people demonstrated the value of neighbors helping each other is what keeps old Florida strong.

You would think that devastation would be enough to make people want to quit or to stay away. But, Pam, who is beginning her fourth season with the Café, said it best: “I do it for Dulce and Carlos.  They are lovely people and their generosity is unbelievable. They always do the ‘right’ thing for their business, their family and for their employees, even at their own expense.” 

The stream of visitors during the first week as well as the overwhelming number of congratulatory comments on their Facebook page was truly touching and was evidence that people truly love Havana Café of the Everglades.

Havana Café’s Cuban sandwich.

Havana Café is known for their authentic, home-cooked food that is served on a beautiful outdoor patio surrounded by tropical plants. On opening day, the smell of fresh coffee, breakfast and Cuban sandwiches, along with love and laughter filled the air. Kip, a cook who recently relocated from Rhode Island to experience working and living in SW Florida said he had been there only 9 days and was enjoying Carlos’ creativity in the kitchen using Cuban herbs and spices. “The home-cooked food is prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients and herbs. It’s a joy preparing real food from scratch – you just don’t find that anymore.”

And the patio?  Did it survive? “It’s something about the oyster shells on Chokoloskee Island, they just make everything beautiful” Dulce said with a warm smile. “I just look at the patio and think, you are always so good to me.”  The tropical trees, plants, and flowers have already regrown and are green and lush.

So, don’t be afraid to head down to Havana Café located on Chokoloskee Island for a home-cooked breakfast or lunch, freshly prepared with a Cuban flare.  Oh, and don’t forget to try the Cuban coffee, it’s the best. The restaurant is now open seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. and is located at 191 Smallwood Drive, Chokoloskee Island, Florida.