#TBT – Super Heroes, Siths, and Saltiness

I know what you’re thinking…”Damn girl, you’re still here?!” Yes, yes I am. Listen keeping up with writing and everything else life throws your way is hard! I have much respect for those of you who do this professionally and/or with some level of consistency.

But I’m back right now and OMG so much has happened!

We A LOT of lost games.

…and at one point I never thought we’d get to .500 (meaning we have the same number of wins and losses). But we did… actually we’re .535 (8 games over .500) and look real good sitting at 2nd place in the National League East, 6 games behind Atlanta and 1.5 games in front of Philly! For the first time in Nationals history, we are Wild Card contenders. You see in the years we’ve won the National League East we had the wins and simply clinched it. This time is different because we’re coming back from a big deficit. But watching us play during this second half in pursuit of a chance at making the playoffs, certainly makes for good baseball and high blood pressure.

The BF and I had our first outing together at the ballpark…and then another!

May 25th – Marvel Super Hero Day

Although he had done the Spartan Stadion at the ballpark just two weeks prior (*ahem* on my birthday), this would be The BF’s first time at the ballpark for an actual game. I felt the pressure. Admittedly, I had my doubts. The ballpark is one of my happy places and I’m quite protective of that. Plus my past dating during baseball season (DDBS and yes, I just made that up) experience had been shitty at best. So just in case he wasn’t that into baseball or was uncomfortable with how much I am, I chose two themed games I knew he’d enjoy: Marvel Super Hero Day and Star Wars Day. To say he loves these two things, universes, cults, or whatever you want to call them would be a gross understatement.

We arrived at the ballpark a little late, missing the Ryan Zimmerman as Captain America bobblehead giveaway. It was hot and humid and I wondered how well, if at all, I would balance following the game and making sure The BF was comfortable. After all I had dragged him out to the ballpark on a hot and humid day to sit in the direct sun for several hours. Turns out that as usual I hyped that entire scenario…in my head. Things had been effortless with us up to that point and being at the ballpark was no different. It was perfect and by the end, I was looking forward to catching another game with him. I actually think he paid more attention than I did and I might have observed the beginning signs of conversion.

We walked away with a Curly W, beating the Marlins 5-0. The biggest win for me though was walking away knowing that I have someone who loves me, even when I’m a sweaty screaming fanatic at the ballpark.

June 15th – Star Wars Day

Star Wars Day was our second time at the ballpark. We arrived early enough to snag the Obi Sean Kenobi bobblehead. Before taking our seats we checked out battles between The Resistance and The First Order, fans young and old in cosplay, an inflatable Death Star, and a pretty cool R2D2.

I must say that while the Nationals did well with Marvel Super Hero Day, they just did a must better job with Star Wars Day. It was a completely different experience with Star Wars-themed sights, food, and entertainment all throughout. Which made up well for the 10-3 loss to the Diamondbacks.

I took my salty family to the ballpark too!

June 4th

Every year, I bring some of my favorite people out to a game and it’s always a good time. Usually Karl and Jen will join me for a Phillies game, and Kyle, an Orioles game, but this year everyone joined me when the White Sox were in town. This was during the time that neither team had reached .500. To be clear…they weren’t salty at first. Actually when they arrived at the ballpark, they were quite confident the White Sox would take the win to get them closer to .500.

I just checked…they are .451 and 18.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins so I’ll spare you the details of how that game went (we won 9-5).

Also since this post is super late and the cat’s finally out of the bag…

Congratulations Jennifer & Karl! ūüíô

 

AwesomeCon over Baseball?

I’m currently on a metro train headed towards Navy Yard-Ballpark. The Nats have a 1:35p game against the San Diego Padres. It’s the last game of the already lost series. There are lots of people dressed in Nats gear and kids are bopping around with excitement. I should be headed there…but I’m not. I’m hopping off this train 6 stops before Navy Yard-Ballpark for Day 3 of Awesome Con!

I had a choice: go to the game or finish my 3-Day pass…absorbing myself in all things pop culture, gaming, fantasy, sci-fi, science, comics, etc.

I chose the latter…concluding I’d get more out of the experience. Plus the boyfriend is there so I’ve got that going for me.

The Nats are having a rough time and the fans are feeling it. Facebook group conversations are more negative. Cursing the Lerners, the bullpen, and Davey Martinez. Shit maybe even the Universe itself.

I love my team (Go Nats!) but no one walks into disappointment, knowingly.

Happy Sunday Folks!

Opening Day 2019

On Opening Day, you wake up SUPER hyped!

After what seemed like the longest winter…EVERRRRRR, Opening Day had finally arrived!

The best way to describe Opening Day is that it’s like the First Day of School or even Christmas morning. I’ve experienced Opening Day before but there I was,¬†surprised I managed to sleep at all the night before. It’s like a ball of energy in anticipation for the day, that’s just waiting to be let out. I needed to tell someone…anyone. So I jumped onto Instagram to declare my excitement but then realized despite having over 800 “followers” on my personal my Instagram account, majority knew or cared little to nothing about baseball. I’d have to wait until I got to the ballpark.

I grabbed the remaining items I needed for the day then went into my closest to figure out what I was going to wear. I tend to leave what I wear on Opening Day to what sparks joy, harnessing my inner Marie Kondo. I opted for my red Curly W hat with “Nika” embroidered on the side, a red player-less jersey over a blue henley, jeans, Curly W argyle socks, and my red Converse sneakers.

It was 10:20a when I finally got in my car and made my way to the metro. At first I thought I might have missed the wave, as there’s usually other Nats fans on the train with me. However, as the train chugged along, the presence of Nats fans and the color red increased. Nine¬†stops later (and around 10:50a), I arrived at Navy Yard Ballpark.


On Opening Day you get re-adjusted and maybe make a new friend.

Making my way down Half Street, I remember how happy I was to see that the street vendors selling bottled water, peanuts, hot dogs, and other snacks hadn’t been img_2785-1completely displaced by the development and construction going on in the area….yet.

I was surprised to find that the lines were a lot shorter than I expected given that gates would be opening at 11:05a. I decided to stand in one of the the Season Plan Holder lines so I put on my new NatsPlus 2019 lanyard and credentials for access. Despite my previous thoughts…this thing…it grows on you.

Waiting in line, I couldn’t help but jam to the sounds of DJ Flexx from WPGC 95.5 deejaying just inside the park. I also struck up conversations with fellow Nats fans, in particular Ms. Nettie. I’d never met or seen Ms. Nettie before that day, but I believe particular people are placed into your life, not just for a reason, but also at the right time. We immediately clicked. Like me, she’s a Black woman that loves baseball and was also at the park by herself that day. What’s even more awesome about her is that in addition to being a baseball fan, she’s a big hockey fan too and holds season tickets for the Capitals!

Ms. Nettie and I bid each other a “see you later” shortly after entering the ballpark. Once through the gates, I grabbed the giveaway for the day: a red DC Flag/Curly W t-shirt with the team’s home schedule on the back, then made my way over to take a pic in front of a Curly W made of balloons. Seriously, how cool is that?!

My next stop before doing anything else, is always the team store. My toughest budgeting test really. But before I could get there, I ran into Ms. Nettie again. Like a giddy school girl on the first day of school, I told her all about the Curly W balloon photo op and that she just had to get her picture taken too. So we decided to come back to the team store together.


On Opening Day you get new merch.

There were people, people everywhere in the team store. The line literally wrapped a couple of times around itself. But like with Spring Training, I have must-get items on Opening Day. One being a lapel pin for my lanyard and the other, whatever additional item catches my eye. This time I chose a navy hat with a red block W, a nod to the Washington Senators.

¬†…and more merch.

I left Ms. Nettie again, but not before exchanging numbers and making a deal to keep in touch. I then ventured upstairs to look around and scope out new places to eat. I didn’t make it far at all before I came up on the Breaking T kiosk and some pretty dope t-shirt designs. I grabbed two. If you’re keeping track, I’ve now acquired 3 shirts, a hat, and a lapel pin.

Avoiding further damage, I went straight to my seat to enjoy the program.


On Opening Day you catch up with old friends like on the first day of school!

I caught up with the usual suspects like Tripp, Captain Obvious, my section/row mate Beverly, and of course Matt, the beer man…oh and Stephen! I met Stephen back in 2017 at the Nationals Crab Feast on the Field. We made it a point to keep in touch and Thursday marked Opening Day #2 that we caught up and of course took a selfie!


On Opening Day your Ace pitches.

Max Scherzer (#31), a 6x All-Star, 3x Cy Young award winner and a definite for the Baseball Hall of Fame, was our starting pitcher for the day. He would be going up against the recent Cy Young award winner, Jacob DeGrom of the New York Mets. Before taking my seat for good, I went a few sections over to snap some pics of Mad Max warming up near the bullpen.


On Opening Day there’s pomp and circumstance.

Opening Day is ceremonious. We had the pleasure of having James Brown from CBS News emcee the event. There was an emotional tribute to the late Frank Robinson, the first Black manager in MLB history and a former manager of the Nationals, followed by a moment of silence.  The Mets and Nationals players, coaches, and managers were then introduced.

The Star-Spangled Banner was performed by the U.S. Army Chorus Quartet as a United States-shaped American flag was spread across the outfield by the U.S. Coast Guard Color Guard. A white star was creatively used to depict Alaska or Hawaii or both? Anyway, the Nationals Opening Day ceremony never disappoints.

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Unlike last year, the the Star-Spangled Banner was capped off by a flyover performed by the 113th Wing Capital Guardians. I wasn’t prepared, so I missed getting a pic/video of it but believe me it was glorious!

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser gave us the the green light when she shouted “Lets Play Ball!”

GAME TIME!


On Opening Day, it’s totally normal to drink beer for lunch.

Trust me, it was 5 o’clock somewhere. There’s nothing like a cold can (or two) of Bud Light from your favorite Beer Man, on a beautiful day, while enjoying your and America’s favorite pastime.


On Opening Day your team either wins or it loses.

First pitch was at 1:07p. Both pitchers were starting the season and this series with a record of 0-0. Max would strike out his first batter, Brandon Nimmo but Robinson Cano would hit the very first home run of the season and the first run of the game, in the 1st inning.

It was good to see former Nationals catcher now Met, Wilson Ramos who received a warm welcome when it was his time at bat. Nats fans shouted “Wiiilllllllson!” the way we used to when he was behind the plate for us.

The game went on and by the 6th inning Max had 10 strike outs but our offense had yet to score a run.

Road Runner Trea Turner (#7) stole his 2nd base in the bottom of the 6th. He was challenged by Manager Davey Martinez to steal 80 bases this season. At the pace from Opening Day, he’s on track to stealing upwards of 500 bases this year!

It was such a beautiful day for baseball. The only thing more we could ask for was a run or two!

(On Opening Day you’re also reminded your team still has the same issues from before.)

I’m not exactly sure why Davey decided to allow Max to hit for himself after already pitching 7 innings and we were trailing 1-0. In the American League, there’s a player known as the Designated Hitter (DH) that always bats for the pitcher. However, in the National League (where the Nationals play), there is no DH. Managers and pitchers can decide whether the pitcher will hit for himself or bring in a pinch hitter (PH) to hit for the pitcher. Max ended up¬†striking out during a moment that could have been pivotal for us had Davey simply played a PH. I don’t blame Max, he has the tendency to rake (hit well) but Davey should’ve made a play that would have gotten us closer to scoring a run.

Max would pitch 7 and 2/3 innings before being relieved by Hellickson…and then the bullpen just fell apart. That on top of a lack of offense kept us scoreless.

There’s no half time in baseball but the 7th Inning Stretch provides an opportunity to…well…stretch and reclaim your hype. As custom, we sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game. After which, there’s usually an up-to-date popular song guaranteed to get us moving. I was surprised to hear Take On Me! Take On Me used to be a walk-up song for Michael Morse, a beloved former National turned San Fran Giant, who saw his career ended way too early after suffering a concussion during an on-field brawl. That song always got crowd participation and brought back all the feels of that time when Morse was on the team.

(Ignore the abrupt ending, there was a t-shirt being thrown my way.)

We would return to the game. Leaving runners stranded in scoring position (2nd or 3rd base) several times.¬†Victor Robles lost on what would’ve been a run after hesitating on a ground ball.¬†Robinson Cano would score on a single off Matt Grace in the 8th inning.

All in all, two GREAT pitchers pitched that day, recording historical double-digit strikeouts so the game was low scoring, each team having only 5 hits. At the end of 2 hours and 44 minutes, we lost 2-0. Max ended that game 0-1, DeGrom 1-0.

On Opening Day, there are 161 games remaining…still.


Record | 0-1

West Palm Beach – Last Day

Wednesday.

This is it. My last day in the West Palm Beach area. So many things had worked out in my favor. The weather had been perfect, I spent time with one of my favorite humans enjoying one of my favorite things, I ate very well, and it appeared I’d be heading back home with only TWO mosquito bites. How’s that for winning?!

My AirBnB host was super flexible on my check-out time, so I took my time packing. Recounting what I did in the days prior in a way to not only hold onto those memories but to also hold onto that feeling of peace and accomplishment.

Packing, I realized I brought way more stuff with me than I actually wore or needed. I’m not typically an over-packer (I don’t think) so I’ll chalk it up to just being excited for the trip. However, these are some of my favorite Nationals things.

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I eventually gathered all of my things, loaded up the Jeep, and headed 15 minutes south to Delray Beach to finally check out that one vegan spot before going to the airport.

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Don’t worry…I kept one hand on the wheel the entire time.


I arrived at The New Vegan to find it busy but without any wait and received a warm welcome and a glass of alkaline water. Having peeped the menu a number of times, I knew I was going straight for the kale burger. A kale patty served on millet and flaxseed bread with lettuce, tomato, and vegenaise. I added pickles and avocado and decided to add the side salad and rice for an extra $3.¬†There were several OMG moments while eating. I’m not usually one to boast but I really did save the best for last.

Before leaving, I had a chance to chat with the owner and thank her for such a delicious meal. Come to find out, there are no soy or gluten products on the menu, and the restaurant serves and cooks in alkaline water. Also, they have a location in West Palm Beach that is open on Tuesday!

I ordered a green veggie smoothie for the road and made my way back up 95 N towards the airport. 


The rental pick-up at Budget was a cluster but I for certain thought returning the vehicle would be seamless. It was, actually. However, Budget had to get one more screw up in before sending me back home, and it came in the form of the USELESS airport shuttle driver. The man barely assisted me in lifting my ONE piece of luggage up the steps and onto the shuttle. He asked which airlines to where we would need drop offs (and there were many) however, when he made his one (and apparently only stop) at the airport, he failed to make any sort of announcement. The nail in the I’ll-never-patronize-Budget there-again coffin was when he stood by, carelessly, as a woman mistakenly carted off with my luggage, despite my yelling to get her attention. I literally had to run her down. You better believe I fired off my frustrations in a Google Review!¬†He did get us to the airport safely, so I guess that’s what was most important.

Touchdown!


…until next Spring!

West Palm Beach – Day 3

Tuesday.

I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning or like adult me on Opening Day. It was too soon for either of those days. Instead, I was beyond hype because it was finally my day to take in a Nats spring training game and my sister Cassie was coming to join me!

img_2024She would be driving almost 3 hours from Longwood, Fl to my AirBnB in Boynton Beach, just to spend the day with me. Although we keep in touch via phone and of course Instagram, it had been far too long (October) since I actually saw her.

Needing to get in a workout before we started our day, I decided to take that energy to YouFit Health Club in located at Boynton Beach Mall. There I worked biceps/triceps/legs and spent a little time on the treadmill. 


Cassie arrived a little before 1p. After many hugs and a few approving looks, we hopped in the Jeep and decided on lunch. I had wanted to take her to a vegan spot in Delray Beach but when we realized they were closed on Tuesdays, we settled on pizza for lunch at Pizza Rox in Boynton. Another spot I had on my list of places to eat while here. Their website said that they had both vegan and gluten-free options but we remained skeptical…at first.

We both went for identical 12-inch pies with gluten-free crust. A crust which surprisingly didn’t taste as distinguishable from regular crust like most gluten-free crusts/breads or that imploded as soon as you touched it. I nixed the cheese (although they had various cheese options including vegan cheese) and loaded up my pie with BBQ sauce, vegan chicken breast, red onions, spinach, green peppers, and pineapple. Washing it down with a bottle of Acqua Panna spring water.

For a minute, and only half way through the pie, I thought about picking up another before my return flight home the next day.

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However, I erred on the other side of gluttony and instead saved the other half for later.


After lunch, we made our way up 95 North to FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to watch batting practice before the 6:35p game against the Astros. It was the first time I would be attempting to catch spring training BP and boy did I get it wrong. I assumed BP would actually be in the ballpark. Instead, it appeared to happen in one of the practice fields to which we really didn’t have access to or visibility of. We arrived around 3 and found the gates wouldn’t open until 4:30p. So we chatted about everything under the sun, took some pics, and did a lap or two along the walking trail.

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We also managed to spot Justin Verlander (‘Stros starting pitcher that night) arriving on campus in a sort of grey muscle car with Virginia license plates. Full disclosure, it was only after Googling rosters did I realize that’s exactly who that was. You know what they say about hindsight.

They opened the gates promptly at 4:30p and we went straight for the giveaway table to collect our Nationals hoodie, a freebie we weren’t even aware we were getting until we were standing in line. Interesting how the Universe works in your favor.

To my surprise, a familiar face was at the table: It’s Mike! Mike was at the table doing Mike things…handing out hoodies and later tossing t-shirts into the stands. Quick intro: Mike (Ploger) is the in-game host of Inside Pitch Live and in-game promotions at Nationals Park. I asked him if he’d take a selfie with me and he jumped right in!

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I later posted this pic to Instagram to which he commented, “Your energy is contagious!” Oh Mike.

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I hit the team store next, determined to stick to my budget by sticking to the plan of picking up my must-haves: a Sprint Training-themed magnet for my fridge (I guess that’s becoming a thing) and this year’s Spring Training hat.¬†Have you seen it?!

You’re welcome.

After making our way around the concourse a couple of times to kill time, grab some water, and snacks…we made our way to our seats. Well the section our seats were in. We chose to sit 10 or so rows back (out of the sun) from where we were supposed to sit and remained there until we left.

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I ended up walking over by the bullpen to take a couple of pics and vids of Strasburg and Gomes warming up before first pitch. This would be my first time watching Gomes catch since the Nats acquired him back in November. I was excited about that but mostly just excited to finally see some baseball!

Astros were the first to go out in front. Until 21-year-old Carter Kieboom launched a 2-run home run in the 2nd putting us in the lead. Carter is our No. 2 prospect and while he struggled a bit at second base, he killed his at-bats.¬†Going 2-for-2 and hitting another home run in the 4th…scoring both those home runs¬†off the Astros’ ace pitcher, Mr. Muscle Car himself, Justin Verlander.¬†

We would eventually remain in the lead, beating the ‘Stros 5-3 in 9 innings.

Stephen Strasburg pitched 4.67 innings, striking out six and allowing two runs, five hits and four walks.

Our No. 1 prospect, center fielder Victor Robles went 1-for-2 with 2 walks, 2 stolen bases,  and a run scored.

 

 

West Palm Beach – Day 2

Monday.

Yesterday was my first full day in the West Palm Beach/Boynton area. Although I’m actually staying in Boynton Beach, WPB is just a 10-15 min ride on 95 North from Boynton.

One of my goals for the 3-ish days I’d be visiting, was to workout at least 2 of those 3 days. And I knew I wanted to get those workouts in and out of the way before I truly started my day. I dropped in at Fitness Hub Studios in WPB after finding them on

ClassPass. There, I took a 45-min virtual¬†cycle class. It was my first time taking a virtual class and I must say, it was great! Now I was the only person in the class, but it didn’t stop me from challenging myself or from having a good time.

*UPDATE* How could I forget that I paid TEN DOLLARS to park for 45 minutes near Fitness Hub?! However, they do validate parking if you park in the parking garage behind Duffy’s (Olive and Banyan Streets) and in the City Center garage (Banyan and Dixie Streets).

Knowing that Tuesday would mostly be spent at the ballpark and I would be heading back home on Wednesday, I wanted to make sure I also got in some time at the beach to read and recharge. So after a much needed shower and change of clothes, I headed straight to Oceanfront Park. Last year, I spent a few hours at Oceanfront Park and really enjoyed the amenities and cleanliness of the beach. There, I laid out a towel, spread across it, and dug further into Becoming. I occasionally looked up to see and listen to the sounds of the other beachgoers, and let my mind wander at the meditative sounds of the waves crashing ashore.

I also wanted to catch the sunset. However, Oceanfront Park is East facing so I hopped in the Jeep to travel just a mile down N Ocean Blvd to Ocean Inlet Park. I don’t know why, but I am rarely aware of the sun as it sets back home. Maybe it’s because I’m too busy trying to meet a deadline or run from one place to the other (geez I should really should do better). But watching the sunset on the water was something ¬†I did every evening while here last year and it’s become a must-do. It’s almost as if my body needs it by the time it happens. SOLITUDE and PEACE To sit peacefully with nothing but my own thoughts. To reflect on the day’s events, the year-to-date, life so far, as the day ends with hope to live another one.

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FEED ME!

I scoped out a few places I wanted to try before arriving to WPB. One of those places was Prime Catch right here in Boynton, to where I headed just after the sun set. However, please DO NOT¬†confuse Prime Catch with Prime – Delray Beach, which in full disclosure, is exactly where I made my reservations. The hostess was cool though…apparently I wasn’t the only one that’d made that mistake before and after about a 10 minute wait…I was seated.

I was greeted and taken care of by Andrew. Because I’m fancy, I ordered a glass of Malbec and an order of Veggie Fries for starters. Man those veggies were delicious! Tempura-fried asparagus, eggplant, and zucchini, drizzled with honey, and a lemon garlic aioli for dipping. It was like a dance party on my taste buds.

I went all in on the seafood for my main course, opting for the Prime Mixed Grill of lobster tail, scallops, jumbo shrimp, in a garlic herb butter. For sides, I chose the mashed potatoes and substituted the grilled asparagus it came with for sautéed garlic spinach.

I also didn’t skip dessert. My eyes zoomed in on the menu at the Flourless Swiss Chocolate Tort and it did not disappoint.

I didn’t eat all of my dinner or dessert but I wasn’t left feeling hungry or miserably full. The meal truly hit the sweet spot. Signaling the end of my meal, I was offered a slice of lemon and warm towel to rid my hands of the seafood smell.¬†

I’ll definitely be back and I would highly recommend Prime Catch…in Boynton…not Prime – Delray, to anyone looking for good seafood, welcoming environment, and outdoor seating.

West Palm Beach: Day 1-ish

Sunday.

You guys…

I MADE IT!

After a delayed flight, an inflight holding pattern so the President could depart the area, and an hour wait to pick up my rental at Budget, I finally got settled in somewhere after 7p last night.

My AirBnB host is a sweet Jamaican lady that lives not far from the airport in Boynton Beach. She’s already made me feel at home ensuring I have everything I need and things I didn’t even know I needed, including her homemade stove-top hot chocolate.

After grabbing a few things I needed from Target like OFF! Wait. Let’s pause here for a moment. I’ve been to Florida enough times to know that mosquito repellant is E-SSEN-TIAL. Those little bloodsuckers can’t wait for you to slip. Buzzing around, buzzing passed my ear, making buzzy noises. If OFF! isn’t my selected scent for the day, I’m screwed and itchy.

As has been a tradition for the past 2 years, obligatory stop for dinner on my first night in WPB was the Havana restaurant for some good ass Cuban food.

Table for one please!

Speaking of, my favorite things about traveling alone are that: 1) you’re on your time and can navigate the day however you please, and 2) no one’s eyeing your plate leading to the obligatory offer to share.

So I sat back, took in the sights of other diners, eavesdropped a little on their conversations, and enjoyed my own intermittent conversations with the host and wait staff.img_1932

I indulged on a glass of Tempranillo and ordered the camarones al ajillo (shrimp in a super garlicky garlic sauce), with a side of arroz amarillo (Cuban-style yellow rice), frijoles (black beans), and maduros (sweet plantains).

The combination of good food, welcoming staff, and a “when you’re here, you’re family”-like environment makes for a great dining experience. I highly recommend you make it a necessary stop as well. While the restaurant closes at 10p, Havana’s carry out window is open 24/7….even on Christmas people.

The place kinda gives me vibes like the Columbia Restaurant located in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa. Also highly recommended if you’re ever in Tampa.

After a longer than planned (or necessary) travel day, I took my leftovers and called it a night not long after dinner.

-Nika