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Saturday, Oct 21, 2017
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Tradition and innovation keep Little Habana thriving

The popular, family-owned Little Habana restaurant in Riverview is currently celebrating its third year in business as a go-to place for robust Cuban cooking.  I have friends who come from as far away as Lakeland just to savor hearty portions of Little Habana's slow-roasted pork, oxtail, croquettes, shredded beef, fried snapper and the ever-popular black bean soup. I've been known to stop in myself to get a quick coffee fix. The cafe con leche is the best around. I also enjoy the Picadillo and Ensalata de Churrasco, a tasty skirt steak salad. Since opening in 2009, the restaurant has built a loyal following. One reason for that is the food, of course. Owners Al and Tanya Estevez, both Cuban natives, use authentic recipes that have been handed down through their families. Al's father and uncle owned one of the first Cuban restaurants in Union City, N.J.
But it is also the kind and attentive service the family provides that keeps customers coming back. All who enter Little Habana are treated like family. The Estevez'es have listened carefully to what their customers want over the years.   The family has not only expanded into the space next door, but added a daily breakfast, longer hours, early-bird specials, additional fresh seafood entrees and wine-based mixed drinks.  Tanya said they have maintained the success of their restaurant by remaining flexible and adapting to changing trends. For example, heartier dishes have become lighter by adding sides of steamed vegetables and salads for the health-conscious guests.  She also attributes some of the restaurant's success to its significant online presence. Little Habana promotes special menu items on Facebook. Customers can check-in via Facebook to let their friends know where they're eating, and when they do, they receive 10 percent off their meals.  One thing that has not changed is the Estevezes' devotion to their restaurant. I think that's the real key to their success.   Little Habana Cafe, 13352 Lincoln Road, Riverview, is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For further information, visit www.littleha banacafe.com or call (813) 672-5111. Little Habana's Bistec de Pollo al Ajillo 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sauté about 10 to 15 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Set the chicken aside on a clean plate. To a frying pan, add minced garlic, tablespoon of butter, olive oil, parsley and pepper flakes. Sauté until caramelized. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Add chicken breasts back to the pan and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until warm. Serves 2

Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.

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