Cesar Ochoa is ready to open his second restaurant on N. Main—if he can find enough employees. With a gleaming bar, colorful wall art, and a basement speakeasy with a secret entrance, Havana is otherwise set to offer Latin-inspired tapas and craft cocktails.
He’s opened it on a few weekends and for a Cinco de Mayo block party, but he says he can’t yet sustain it with the worker shortage. He’d hoped to get more applications once the extended Covid unemployment benefits ended, “but instead it’s gotten worse.”
Just a couple doors down from Havana, Chapala, the Mexican restaurant that Ochoa opened in fall 2020, is fully staffed seven days a week, and he’s doubled its space after renovating the basement. He has a loyal kitchen staff that followed him from his Livonia restaurant days, and he has reliable servers.
Chapala offers a beach “getaway” feel, he says, with a tiki bar with swings, a garage door that opens to sidewalk tables, and upbeat music. He says the vast tequila menu is a huge draw, and he orders 2,000 orchids a week to decorate his cocktails. “It’s the little things,” he says. He wants a place where “people can forget about the stresses of life for a while—even going to the gas station is stressful right now.”
He says he aims for an authentic and affordable menu that changes seasonally. Some highlights include ceviche, birria, his mother’s recipe for mole, and a shrimp taco batter recipe from a beach vendor he met in the Pacific surfer town of Sayulita, Mexico.
Ochoa believes Havana can have the same success as Chapala. Though he says he’s “explored the idea of selling it,” he’d prefer to launch it on his own. If he succeeds with employee recruitment efforts, his plan is to open Havana by the fall.
Havana, 207 N. Main. (734) 263–1296. Opening TBA at facebook.com/Havana-A2 or Instagram @havana_a2