Always Evolving

04 Jul 2024

After 15 years, Havana's Restaurant is still finding new ways to keep customers coming back

By Judy Royal  »  Photos by G. Frank Hart

Havana's Restaurant in Carolina Beach has been in business for 15 years, an impressive milestone in a challenging industry – especially in an area where many eateries have come and gone. The owners and managers aren't resting on their laurels, however. They always seek ways to wow their customers, from longtime regulars to first-time visitors.

“It's amazing to see how much the restaurant has evolved and how many people's lives have been touched by dining here,” Operations Manager Adele McMurtrey says. “We're here for everyone, and we value all our guests. We're going to execute at a high level, whether we're feeding 100 guests in November or 600 guests in July.”

One of the most notable changes at Havana's in recent months was the Memorial Day weekend opening of the new Patio Bar on the south side of the building. This space offers bar seating as well as some tables under a permanent, covered structure. The intent is to bring the fine-dining aspect of the indoors to the outdoors, McMurtrey said. 

“Our Patio Bar has really elevated our diners' experience,” she says. “We want our guests to be able to have everything they love about sitting outside and be able to take it in even more while under guaranteed shade. It's for those looking for more of an outside, ocean-breeze feel while providing the same polished, professional experience you'd have inside.”

Seating at the Patio Bar is first come, first served, including the tables surrounding the area, McMurtrey says. The Havana's team will bring out fans to keep the breeze flowing on days when a little extra is welcomed, she adds, and the original bar is still there for those who would prefer to be indoors.

The new space is great for enjoying live music every Wednesday and Sunday from 5 to 9 pm and is perfect for private events of about 20-30 seated guests, McMurtrey says, adding that a group recently booked the Patio Bar for a 60th birthday celebration and had a blast.

Havana's can handle private gatherings of up to 250 people, whether it's a special occasion or a business meeting. Numerous spaces inside and outside the historic cottage can be used separately or combined for groups of all sizes, and various menu options are available.

“We take pride in knowing that people trust us for these once-in-a-lifetime events,” McMurtrey says. “People make memories here. Little details make all the difference.”

Havana's has also recently revamped its website and updated its food and drink menus. The food lineup keeps customer favorites from Executive Chef Elissa Smith, such as CB Shrimp & Grits, and makes some new additions, including steak toppers, and staff also listened to feedback to add more salads, sandwiches and other non-egg dishes to Sunday brunch. The beefed-up beverage menu now has more craft beer options and bourbons as well as a selection of mocktails and three non-alcoholic beers.

McMurtrey, who has been with Havana's since 2016, said one of the reasons the restaurant is so successful is because of its staff. She said investing in the entire team – not just management – pays off because they will in turn take care of the guests and keep them coming back.

“We're here to serve all, so come in to see the team that has a passion for hospitality,” McMurtrey says.

Of course, the fun and festive atmosphere doesn't hurt either, she adds.

“There is definitely a large percentage of customers who say they just drove by or they were walking around and knew they had to come here,” McMurtrey says. “We just have that curb appeal.”

Havana's Restaurant
1 N. Lake Park Blvd., Carolina Beach

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