Monday Night BBQs Are Back On the Menu At Ho-Hum Habana

May is National Barbeque Month (yay!) and, so far, the weather's playing ball.

Good to hear, then, that Habana at the Lab recently reintroduced its Monday night BBQ (from 10pm till midnight, from now through Labor Day), held on its gorgeous, romantic patio. Assuming I could ever last that long till dinner, I might give it shot, despite my disappointing meal there this week.

True, the setting is lovely (both the exterior and the moody interior), the bar tenders know how to mix a potent margarita (sans hangover, to their credit) and the service is friendly...

But the food was dull. Really dull. Even at its best, Cuban food can be bland, but the dishes we tried were nothing more than huge mounds of steaming hot blah. First up, the empanadas (made of cardboard, surely?) and the pork croquettes (not bad).

Next, entrées of osso bucco and ropa vieja--both underwhelming, with nowhere near enough beans. Dessert, just to punish ourselves further, consisted of four huge pieces of fried banana with mediocre ice cream topped with whipped cream.

And the cost of this mountain of mediocrity? $100 for two (including tip)!!!! Get with the programa!

So I should probably stick to coming here for a lunchtime sandwich... Or for the Monday night 'cue, should I feel like eating at a time when half the country's already in bed.

The BBQ does look good--or, at least cheap: $5 for two tacos, plus veggie options (also for $5), alongside reduced-price drinks ($4 for a glass of sangría, $3 Modelo Especial beers).

Meanwhile, here's hoping that someone will open a truly excellent Cuban restaurant in Orange County. I'll be lining up outside, knife and fork at the ready, the minute they do.

Tip: If you need a charcoal fix pronto, and can't even wait till Monday, drive up to Santa Monica for the second annual LA BBQ Festival.

Habana, 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-0176.


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