When Monica and John Montero moved from Miami to Vermont last year, they brought Cuban home cooking with them. Earlier this month, they began sharing it with their adopted community when they opened Havana 802 at 41 South Main Street in Hardwick.
The opening menu offers about 70 dishes, ranging from tamales and empanadas ($4-6) to sandwiches, soups and entrées ($11-15). The last category includes ropa vieja (a tomato-beef stew) and churrasco (grilled skirt steak) with chimichurri. Once a liquor license goes through, Havana 802 will serve wine and beer, too.
Monica, born to a Cuban American family in Little Havana, does most of the cooking. Her saucy grilled and stewed meats, beans and rice, and plantains (crispy or ripe) are grounded in traditional Cuban cookery, which has a mild spice-ometer compared with other Latin American and island cuisines. John, who moved from Cuba to Florida at age 4, handles business and front-of-house operations.
In recent years, Havana 802's storefront has housed three relatively short-lived restaurants: Vermont Supper Club, Claire's Restaurant and Bar, and A Vermont Place. The Monteros hope to halt the revolving door by offering unique and approachable food at an affordable price point. "Cuban food is not an expensive food," John told Seven Days just after opening in early October. "Why should we charge more than we need to?"
The Monteros say they hope to add live Latin music on weekend nights and perhaps brunch later this fall or winter. For now, the restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
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The original print version of this article was headlined "Cuban in the Kingdom"