Casa Havana, the Cuban diner on Chelsea's 8th Avenue, shuttered yesterday. Suddenly and, it appears, completely.
A reader sent in the above photo and reported that the place is empty inside. I was just there a week ago, filling up on delicious empanadas served by a tough young woman with a scorpion tattoo on her neck. Their phone is disconnected and there's no notice on their Facebook page or website.
|A week ago|
This was an authentic and inexpensive spot, but it was not the original Cuban diner that was in this space. That was Havana Chelsea, an "old-school Cuban greasy spoon that...managed to survive the area’s influx of trendy restaurants."
New York Magazine wrote of Casa Havana: "When Havana Chelsea, the scruffy, long-time Cuban joint that used to be here, closed down, locals were bereft. For his spiffy successor, [owner] Vicari kept the old chef, and continues to peddle rustic Cuban fare with the same menu, prices, and humble roots." They kept the neon "Best Cuban Sandwiches" sign, too.
|Another shot: Last night, from Richie Cohen|
The new Casa Havana was not without controversy. The Village Voice published a comment from the presumed owner of the old Havana Chelsea, calling Casa Havana a fake. To which the owner of Casa Havana responded that he wasn't trying to copy the old place at all. But many people believed it was the same business with a new name. (If it had gone upscale, it might belong in the annals of the fauxstalgia trend.)
A couple years ago, Grub Street reported: "Restaurateur Tom Vicari is battling to stave off eviction from the Chelsea space he leased in 2007 for his popular Casa Havana Cuban luncheonette, and claims that his landlord, the leader of a low-income housing cooperative board next door, is engaging in strong-arm tactics to remove him."
Maybe now we'll get that additional 7-Eleven that Chelsea really needs--oh, but that'll probably go into the Rawhide space, right?
|inside Casa Havana|
Once, there were many Cuban diners in Chelsea. One by one, they have vanished. Pray this doesn't happen anytime soon to La Taza de Oro.