The Brunch Dish: Queso Fundido at Havana Central
Havana Central took over the old West End space in Morningside Heights right by Columbia University a few years ago, and it was a nice change. No longer a dark, dingy space with a sticky-floored music venue in the darkest corner in the back, it's now an open (if dimly lit), friendly joint with nice energy, great street-side seating, and a decent lunch and dinner menu to boot. They've got three locations around the city, but only the Upper West Side and Union Square locations offer a special, egg-heavy brunch menu on Sundays.
It's all pretty decent fare.The Huevos Santigero ($14), an eggs Florentine-esque stack of spinach, poached eggs and hollandaise replaces the English muffin with a nicely charred, cheese-stuffed, sweet-corn arepa (a Cuban-style corn patty). Huevos Rancheros Criolla ($8) are a well-cooked, tender omelet with a red onion and pepper-laced salsa that borders on too sweet. Their signature Huevos de Havana Central ($12), two poached eggs over a hash of potatoes and chorizo is actually their weakest. The potato "hash" is really just rather bland roasted potato chunks tossed large dry hunks of chorizo.
Honestly, if the egg dishes were all you came here for, you'd leave disappointed. However, let me offer a an alternative that's not actually on their brunch menu (check under the appetizers in their lunch or dinner menu), but makes for some fine, fortifying Sunday morning fare: the Queso Fundido with Ropa Vieja.
A hot cast iron skillet comes loaded with melted cheese topped with tender, savory ropa vieja, the classic cuban dish of stewed and shredded skirt steak.
The best part of the dish is the frico-esque edges that pull away from the well-seasoned pan which, by the way, ensures that the whole thing stays hot and melty until you're finished.
If you need a bit of the hair of the dog, they make a great version of the classic Cuban rum-based cocktail flavored with mint and lime (there are also a dozen or so other flavors on the menu). Theirs comes served with a hunk of raw sugarcane, great for sucking rum-scented jucies out of when your drink is all gone.