This week’s Bokenology takes us to Havana Cafe, 32 Newark St. This downtown bar and restaurant will give you a taste of Cuba. They offer delicious drinks like their Coconut Mojito that goes down easy. The atmosphere is laid back and makes one feel they have escaped to an island resort. White chandeliers hang down over the bar and bright festive green wallpaper lines the wall behind the bar, giving it a unique look that is a departure from all the dark paneled bars in Hoboken. Guests can enjoy Cuban food, including an appetizer sampler which offers traditional food like empanadas and chicken. It is a good place to unwind after work. One of the friendly staff members bound to make your visit special is the charming Rolando, who has bartended at the Café since it opened.
DS: How long have you worked in the bar business?
Rolando: About seven years.
DS: Where did you work before this?
Rolando: Not in town, this is my first time in Hoboken. Before that I worked in Jersey City.
DS: What is the best part of your job?
Rolando: To be able to talk to people. When I was young, I was really shy. This job has made me into a completely different person.
DS: What has it taught you?
Rolando: It’s taught me to have a lot of patience – especially with the managers!
DS: What is the most life affirming thing you’ve ever witnessed?
Rolando: A woman came in and everything was going wrong for her. Her car didn’t work, etc. And this regular was sitting there while she was talking. He paid her whole bill and it was over $170. He was really quiet. I didn’t expect it from him. She thanked him and gave him all her information so she could pay him back.
DS: Did she ever pay him back?
Rolando: I asked him if he ever heard from her and he said he wasn’t worried about it, ‘you make money every day,’ he said.
DS: What is the best drink you make?
Rolando: My Martini! I’m a Martini freak. I make mine with Hendrick’s Gin, which is made with cucumbers. It is very good and very cold.
DS: What do you drink on a night off?
Rolando: Grey Goose Pear and club soda. It is the simplest thing, but great! And a shot of Jameson every once in awhile.
DS: What is the strangest thing you’ve ever witnessed?
Rolando: Oh, there are so many! This girl comes in with her boyfriend and there was another guy sitting alone at the bar. The boyfriend goes to the bathroom and when he comes back, she is making out with the other guy! So I go over to the two guys so they don’t start fighting. And when I’m talking to them, she turns to another guy at the bar and starts talking to him. I’m like, ‘wow, she is a piece of work!’
DS: What advice would you give a 21 year-old going out in Hoboken?
Rolando: Know your limits! Don’t act stupid. If kids come in screaming I just walk away. To me, drinking is to have fun. So know your limits. Don’t get to the point where you are disrespecting someone else. There is always someone bigger than you.
Photos by Krista Kelly.