Cuban Creations: Meet the couple behind Old Havana Café
By Constance Smith
At the Old Havana Café, diners will meet Miguel and Selma Acevedo. Miguel and Selma have lived a life most people only hear about in the movies.
The Acevedos both escaped communist authoritarianism in Cuba and have built a new life here in America.
They met in Miami in a cafeteria; Selma worked there, and Miguel would go there to get lunch. Through the course of their short conversations, Selma learned Miguel had worked as a Bulgarian translator, and in a wild coincidence, she had been sent to school to learn Bulgarian economics and also spoke the language. So, one day when Miguel stopped in, Selma surprised him by wishing him a nice day in Bulgarian.
Miguel says, with a twinkle in his eye, that he was pleasantly shocked someone spoke the rare language and, even better, that it was “someone I liked!”
Miguel and Selma love people and love to share their story of coming to America and their adoration for this country. One of the stories Selma shares is how she would make empanadas at home and then ride her bicycle around the community selling them. Private citizens were not allowed to own a restaurant in Cuba.
When their son Dennis came to the Huntsville area with his job, Miguel and Selma moved to Hartselle and made it home. They said they felt right at home as soon as they arrived, and the community has been so welcoming.
Earlier this year, Miguel and Selma brought to life their dream of introducing Cuban foods to the area by way of a food truck. They also offer catering and participate in events like Depot Days and Third Fridays in Decatur.
After weeks of an unusually wet summer in northern Alabama, hindering them from opening the truck, they had an idea: They decided to offer curbside take-out from their commissary. The couple shared that announcement on their Facebook page, and they said the response was overwhelming.
In no time, they decided to have a permanent take-out location, in addition to their food truck. They began the process of preparing their commissary for customers, with a service counter and cheerful waiting area.
Cuban food is different from Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine. It has spice but not the burn and centers on bread rather than tortillas. It has flavors of Spain, the Mediterranean and even some African influence. Selma describes Cuban food as “food of love.”
The menu at Old Havana Café will change a bit with the seasons. In the hotter seasons, the couple will offer cooler foods, like classic Cuban or steak sandwiches, empanadas and croquetas, a type of dumpling or fritter. As the weather turns cold, they’ll offer more warm comfort foods like Ropa Vieja and Cuban bowls.
Customers can also find something not offered anywhere else around: Cuban coffees like cafecito or cortadito.
Stop on in at Old Havana Café to discover favorite Cuban classics. The café is located at 800 Highway 31 South, Suite C, in the same shopping center as Tractor Supply.