Load up on authentic Cuban bites, tasty house drinks and get ready to hear great live music at Cafe Habana’s “Jazzy Fridays.” Nestled off 21st and Sansom streets this Cuban restaurant/bar/lounge offers a sweet escape from your typical college bar scene. For only $5 at the door, it is a small, intimate venue for local jazz bands from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
As you walk through the black iron gate, you feel like you are in the Caribbean – minus the 120-degree weather and the white linen suits. Inside, warm lighting is inviting and wooden ceiling fans slowly spin above. Statues of the Virgin Mary are perched on the bright blue back wall and the band is set up inches from the dinner tables.
The concept – to bring live jazz bands – to Habana was suggested a few years ago by a waiter, a Temple music student. At first the restaurant started out with mostly student bands. Then, in an attempt to draw an older crowd, owner Juan Carlos Fernandez said they began carding at the door.
With a bar serving specialty drinks like the “El General,” “Corazon” and the “Cuban Cosmo” the 21-plus crowd is always happy. Habana takes so much pride in their mojitos that in 2001 it was awarded “Best of Philly” by “Philadelphia Magazine.”
Wines from Chile, Argentina, Portugal and Spain also fill the menu. For people filtering in after dinner, it’s a perfect place to drink and cap off the night with some Cuban flare.
“For jazz, it is a very big Temple place,” Fernandez said.
Like most places in the city, Habana welcomes Temple students and loves the Temple music programs that helped mold the musicians that play there today.
The Ross Brown Project started off the night with a full house. Their music is a mix of blues, jazz and funk scattered with intense guitar, bass and drum solos.
Around 11 p.m., the music kicked off and from the moment it began it was hard to keep still. Even though this reporter had an up front table, she wasn’t the only one bobbing her head, itching to dance. People standing along the wall were rocking out with their mojitos in hand.
Brown led the set with passionate guitar
licks and fill-in drummer Lucien Dowdell followed just as strongly – with the forehead sweat to prove it.
“Ross’s music seems to be a little bit more structured than a typical jazz gig,” he said.
Each set was better than the last as the energy of their music kept building all night.
Jaymie Morales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.