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i feel very lucky that there are dozens of excellent, worthy restaurants in asheville that i am thrilled to patronize.

for instance, i love 9 mile, salsa’s, the early girl, laughing seed, limones, marco’s pizza, sunny point, and 12 bones. i would recommend any of these restaurants at any time to anybody.

i can not say the same about havana, the bright pastel cuban place downtown. we went off a recommendation from a friend, and it looked interesting from the outside, but we were sadly disappointed.

this is going against thumper’s rule if you can’t say something nice don’t say nothing at all, but it was too bad and too expensive to let it go.

it would be one thing if the prices were low, or even reasonable, but for $14 a plate, at a place that clearly did not spend money on decor, i expect a heaping plate of good food.

we started off with weak mojitos in small glasses full of ice. ($7)

i ordered arroz con pollo ($14). first came out a ‘dinner salad’ which consisted of shredded iceberg lettuce with shredded carrot sticks swimming in canola oil and salt and pepper. it was…not good….

then the waitress came out and said the arroz con pollo wouldn’t be ready for a few hours so could i order something else? i ordered the garlic calamari appetizer for my dinner. it was billed as ‘lightly fried and tossed in a special mix.’ what came out was a plate of thick rings only, wet with dark grease, seemingly from a bag in the freezer. ($9)

my friend ordered the first thing on the menu – columbia lechon – and the waitress recommended it saying “he is known for his pork.” the pork was good – tender and spicy and fresh. the mango on top of it was tangy and a good complement. the rest of the plate was extremely blah. black beans from a can, clumpy white rice, dry yucca fries, and soggy plantains. ($14).

we spent $60 and left hungry and sad. maybe we misordered, or went at a bad time, but with all the great restaurants downtown i’m not sure how this place will stay afloat.