You may be familiar with the Havana Rumbas in St. Matthews or down Shelbyville Rd in Middletown. But my favorite is the one in the Highlands at Douglass Loop.
This location opened in 2013 as an “Express” location. It had a very nice bar with lots of different kinds of tapas. The main part of the restaurant was a Chipotle/Qdoba-style stand-in-line type affair. You could order mostly sandwiches, the dining room was sparse and there was no table service.
For the first few months, the bar was always packed and the express part was always dead. The owners took notice, closed down for a couple of weeks and reopened as a full restaurant.
Now, most nights of the week, the place is packed.
They have almost the full menu of the other locations plus all of the amazing tapas that the other places don’t have. The biggest omission is the Pollo Empanizado. It’s a chicken cutlet, pounded thin, breaded and fried. It comes with rice mixed with vegetables, congris, and plantains. It’s my second favorite thing on the menu at the other locations and it makes me sad the Highlands restaurant doesn’t have it.
Other excellent menu items are the lobster quesadilla, tostones con pollo (crushed plantains covered with chicken, cheese, and pico de gallo), and the Havana Rumba Sandwich. All of the sandwiches are hot-pressed and amazing, but the Havana Rumba Sandwich is something special. Shredded pork, Serrano ham, regular ham, Swiss cheese, and tangy mustard. I always intend to save half for the lunch the next day and I never manage to do it.
Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth stopping in for the best frozen margarita in town. I don’t know the brand of margarita mix they use but they put a little bit of orange juice in it and they’re spectacular. They also pack a powerful punch for the price. We’ve had to institute a one-margarita-per-visit rule.
They have great outside seating, even if it is a little close to Bardstown Rd and the bus stop next to Graeter’s Ice Cream. The bar has cozy high tops for small groups and couples. The main dining area has large and small booths and lots of tables. This works well if you’re there with a large group. Push tables together and you’re all set.
They also have some of the nicest, hardest-working servers in town. Most of them are native Spanish speakers and are more than willing to chat in Spanish if you’re looking for practice.
Havana Rumba is, hands down, one of my favorite places to go in the Highlands. I’ll even admit to going more than once in a single day.
Just get there early or make a reservation if you’re going on a Fri or Sat night. It fills up fast!