Betty-Jane Hernandez of Havana Patio Cafe: "You Just Have to Roll with the Punches"

Categories: Chef and Tell

havanacafe-bjhernandez-saria.JPG
Lauren Saria
BJ Hernandez of Havana Patio Cafe
BJ Hernandez
Havana Patio Cafe
Chef, owner
www.havanacafe-az.com

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.

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Lauren Saria
Tamal Cubano and Frituras de Frijoles Negros
See also: Havana Cafe in Phoenix to Close After More Than 25 Years

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.


Location Info

Havana Patio Cafe

6245 E. Bell Road, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant


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11 comments
rosemarie313
rosemarie313

Two weekends ago, I stopped at the Havana Café to purchase a meal for my 88-year old mother who is in hospice and was asking for Pasteles. I arrived at 3:30pm and waited for 5 minutes wondering where the staff was. I knew they were open because there was a couple in the bar eating. Once the hostess/manager appeared she informed me that I could no longer order lunch because the kitchen was switching over to the dinner menu. I pointed out that their front door states that lunch is served until 4pm, none-the-less, she refused to let me order from the lunch menu. I just ordered the black bean soup for my mother and ended up cooking Pasteles at home to give to my mom. Regardless of whether the food is good (I consider the food to be mediocre and pricey myself), I won't ever go there again nor will I ever recommend it to friends. I also suggested that they should change the sign on the front door to show that lunch is served until 3:30pm and not 4pm. The manager told me to make that suggestion to the owner directly. Nice!

Bonnie Braun
Bonnie Braun

I've been a fan since they opened at camelback in the 90s. Since I moved to N Scottsdale I've been a fan of their North Scottsdale location

Erica Picard
Erica Picard

Just visited the bell location over the weekend. .... twice. it had been a long time since I've been. It's going to be a new frequent place for me now! Great food and amazing staff

Ev Wesson
Ev Wesson

What they closed? Anthony Wesson Jr.

Tabitha Cornwell
Tabitha Cornwell

This makes me so sad! As if Arcadia really needs another pretentious, overhyped LGO. Can't wait to see what the owners of Havana Cafe come up with next.

Larry Gulliford
Larry Gulliford

LGO group bought the shopping center and ordered tenants to vacate so they could bulldoze and build their own development.

opinionatedbutright
opinionatedbutright

Thanks for this one. BJ is a very special woman. Her energy and drive are tremendous. She and Gilbert helped to make Phoenix a restaurant town.

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