Betty-Jane Hernandez of Havana Patio Cafe: "You Just Have to Roll with the Punches"
Lauren Saria BJ Hernandez of Havana Patio Cafe
Havana Patio Cafe
In 1991, when Betty-Jane (BJ) and Gilbert Hernandez opened Havana Cafe in a space just off Camelback Road, you couldn't even get chorizo or black beans in this town. You could smoke inside restaurant dining rooms (in fact, Havana Cafe eventually became the first non-smoking restaurant in the city) and very few people knew what Cuban food was all about.
Over the last two decades, little Havana Cafe has helped shape diners' understanding of the Caribbean island's cuisine. Or at least, they did until earlier this year when their building was sold to be razed and turned into a new restaurant from LGO Hospitality. The new concept will be the company's fourth in the bursting Arcadia dining scene.
"It's like the Foxs and the LGOs are having a turf war," Hernandez laughs.
See also: Havana Cafe in Phoenix to Close After More Than 25 Years
Lauren Saria Tamal Cubano and Frituras de Frijoles Negros
She admits it was hard to let go of the restaurant, which she fondly refers to as "our first child." But Hernandez isn't the type to dwell. Already, she says, she's looking for a new location to complement the second iteration of the original Havana Cafe, north Scottsdale's Havana Patio Cafe.
"You have to just roll with the punches," the chef and owner says.
And she has. Hernandez had several successful careers before she made the jump into restaurant ownership. In past lives shes was an art teacher and at one point ran one of the Valley's top catering companies. In the 80s Hernandez's company catered huge events including the annual Arabian Horse Show, though that business petered out once Scottsdale's WestWorld was built.