I hadn't planned on going out that Wednesday, but sipping a cocktail while getting some writing done sounded too good to pass up. My roommate waits tables at this new place on Wharf Street, called Havana South. She was working, so I headed over. Out the window, I spotted a frequent customer from my job waiting tables. He was looking at the menu posted in the window. Poking my head out the door, I asked, "Excuse me, sir? Are you lost?" His smile was immediate. He asked me how the food was, and if he understood correctly that there was a Cuban band playing. I shrugged.
He came in and sat at the bar anyway. Roughly 15 minutes later, as my fish taco arrived, I realized there was a warm, vibrant sound coming from the dining room. Yes, in fact, a band did start playing. A Buena Vista Social Club-esque Cuban band called Primo Cubano. Google Translate tells me that means "Cuban cousin," which is a fitting name for both the band and the restaurant. I couldn't understand the lyrics, but my foot was tapping. Their Panama hats and linen pants, accompanied by their placement on a bandstand, gave the whole setup a Dirty Dancing kind of feel. Except, of course, that the dance floor area was really small and people were primarily dining while enjoying the music. A friend showed up and immediately suggested we burn a hole in the floor. I politely declined, because I do not know how to salsa, merengue, or look cool dancing in public.
Primo Cubano were formed in 2006 by Paul D'Alessio, after an inspirational trip to Cuba. Though the band sound like a transplant, these guys are all from Maine. They have a semi-regular gig at Havana South, and it's worth checking out. Of all the talented, entertaining bands here in Portland, very few so seamlessly transport you to a different place, time, and temperature.
Primo Cubano | primocubano.com