Delaware County residents soon will have an authentic new flavor in town thanks to some family-inspired cooking.
Pablo Taura, a Concord Township resident, is preparing to open a Cuban restaurant called Pablo’s Havana Cafe at 9685 Sawmill Road in Liberty Township, just west of Powell.
Taura plans to serve a variety of Cuban fare, including the famous Cubano sandwich; the traditional ropa vieja, a shredded-beef dish whose name means old clothes in English; and a variety of other meals inspired by Taura’s home country.
“It’s more like a rediscovering-myself kind of thing at this point,” he said.
In December 1967, when Taura was 5 years old, his parents emigrated from Havana to Union City, New Jersey.
“My parents didn’t want to raise me in a Communist country,” he said.
Taura had grown up eating his mother’s and grandmother’s cooking, which reflected their Cuban and Spanish heritage.
In New Jersey, his father worked in a factory while his mother worked in the hospitality world, eventually helping to reopen the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York.
Taura said he never was much of a cook himself. He worked in operations, largely for hotels and restaurants, and eventually opened an accounting firm that worked with Spanish-speaking businesses in the area.
He met his wife, Kelley, who was from central Ohio, and the pair moved to Delaware County in 2002.
But in Ohio, where he was set to manage operations for several McDonald’s locations, Taura said, he realized he missed his beloved cuisine.
“All this time, I was an observer,” he said. “My mom and grandmother would always cook for me. But when we moved to Ohio, I didn’t have Cuban food. So I called my mom and said, ‘How do I cook this?’ ”
Taura began cooking for friends and family, and he said he immediately was successful in the neighborhood.
“To my surprise, the kids loved it, the neighbors loved it,” he said. “Any time I would cook, people would say, ‘Pablo is cooking,’ and figure out a way to get over there. That’s why I jumped into this. My neighbors were like, ‘Your food is so good, you’d be crazy to not give this a shot.’ ”
This year, Taura began working on his concept, and is almost ready to open Pablo’s Havana Cafe.
He said he’s most happy to be filling a niche, and he knows of only a few Cuban restaurants in all of central Ohio. He said he thinks the Powell community would be a good fit for his restaurant, even if it takes residents some time to understand his food.
“I think there will be some education time,” he said. “There will be some folks who are just curious about what it is.”
But the other niche he wants to fill is a spot between high-end dining and fast-casual eateries, which he said are too fast-paced and unwelcoming for him.
Just because the dishes on his menu range from $7 to $12 doesn’t mean he thinks it should be compared to grab-and-go restaurants.
“I don’t consider myself fast-casual,” he said. “I’m trying to come up with a new concept because, for me, you’re in my kitchen. I can be back there cooking and I can see a friend and come out and have a cup of coffee with them.
“My food is fine-dining; all the food is homemade. But if you want to come in and place your order, place your order. If you want to sit down, my daughter (Maddie) will come and take your order and serve you.”
Unlike many restaurateurs, Taura said, his background in accounting and operations means he has a solid foundation.
“That’s what’s given me the confidence to open up a place and know it’s going to be successful,” he said. “I’ve done everything from managing a restaurant to overseeing 15 McDonald’s.”
Even more important than that, he said, is his commitment to giving his customers the same food and experience he gives his family at dinner.
“Cooking for family, that’s the piece that’s really inspiring me to make these home-cooked dishes for folks,” he said.
Taura said he is making final preparations for his restaurant and he hopes to open soon. For more information, go to the Pablo’s Havana Cafe Facebook page.