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THE DISH: Havana South Cuban Restaurant and Bar

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Staff Photos: Meghan Kotowski The restaurant serves, from bottom left clockwise, arroz con camarones (rice with shrimp), handmade mojitos, bistec palomilla (grilled Cuban style steak), empanadas and picadillo a la Cubana (Cuban style ground beef).

ON THE MENU

• Pan con bistec sandwich — Slices of smoked ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese with pickles and mustard on Cuban bread. It is served with either French fries, maduros or tostones, $8

• Lechon asado — Roasted pork served with white rice with red or black beans, moro or yellow rice, $10

• Key West fish — Red fish stuffed with crab meat and drizzled with mango sauce. Served with white rice with red or black beans, moro or yellow rice, $15

• Tres leches — Three milk cake, $4

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Havana South keeps with the Cuban theme with a mural, cigar boxes and a thatched roof over a service station.

Map

Havana South

Havana South

4060 Buford Drive, Buford

678-546-2252

www.havanasouth.com

Open since: June 2008

Owners: Jorge and Stephanie Arenas, Alonzo Borja and Rey Diaz

Location: Havana South is located at the intersection of Buford Drive and Satellite Boulevard next to Quik Trip.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 7 p.m. Sundays

Atmosphere: Jorge and Stephanie Arenas ate at Havana South on the first night the restaurant was opened and was hooked on the food every since. In 2011, the couple decided to take on the majority of the business from Alonzo Borja and Rey Diaz, who are still part-time owners.

"When the economy went down, so did the restaurant," owner Stephanie Arenas said. "We decided to take over to give (Havana South) a new push."

The restaurant is painted in a dark maroon with black booths and tan tables with chairs. There is a large mural on the wall with three Cuban men playing dominoes while smoking cigars under a palm tree.

"It's pretty much Cuban history in one painting," Arenas said.

The decoration that stands out is the large number of cigar boxes nailed to the walls. Borja is a cigar smoker who collected the boxes and decided to put them up around the eatery.

"We can't get anyone to actually bring us a Cuban cigar box, obviously," Arenas said with a laugh. "But it would be great to put one up."

On Thursdays and Fridays, the Interstate Poker Club stops by to host poker games, which brings a large crowd of card players out. Arenas is currently looking for someone to run domino games at the restaurant, but hasn't had any luck yet.

Menu: As you may guess, Havana South serves Cuban food -- everything from Cuban coffee, medianoche sandwiches, ham croquetas and flan.

"Everything, right down to our chef, is authentic," Arenas said while talking about chef Pavel Gonzalez, who was born and raised in Cuba.

The dish that is a crowd pleaser is the paella, which is made of rice, seafood, chicken and vegetables -- but it takes awhile to prepare.

"The paella is made from nothing," Arenas said. "(Gonzalez) puts it all together when it is ordered, so it takes awhile. When people wait the 30 minutes for it, they love it."

If you're not sure what to get, there are little Cuban flags scattered throughout the menu to highlight the authentic Cuban dishes.

"A lot of people have never had this type of food before," Arenas said. "But when they do, they can't get enough of it."

Things you might not know: Jorge Arenas and Diaz are golf buddies.