Cigar bar captures Latin flavor
Heads turned toward the smoldering smell of molasses, honey and tobacco leaves that floated through a Miami Lakes plaza.
More than 60 neighbors and friends grabbed a comfy seat, swayed to live Latin music and smoked stogies at the grand opening of Habana Cuba Cigar Lounge in Miami Lakes on June 24.
The new store holds a trademark for some of the cigars it carries in the Oliveros line. Store owners Rafael Nodal, Hank Bischoff and Julio Varela have created new blends such as Oliveros XL For Men, named for the strength of the tobacco leaves.
''For three generations, my family has grown tobacco,'' Nodal explains. ``They played an essential role in the production of cigars. So, opening this lounge is what connects me to my ancestors.''
Today, Nodal and his partners run a tobacco factory in the Dominican Republic, where the Oliveros are produced. Tobacco produced for the Miami Lakes lounge is grown in Honduras, Nicaragua as well as the Dominican Republic.
There is a huge market for the cigar industry here in the United States, said Nodal, born in Cuba and who came to the United States in 1980 with his family when he was 15 years old.
The United States barred the sale of Cuban exports -- cigars included -- in an order signed in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. To preserve nostalgia, Nodal named his lounge after his native island, only he spells Havana in Spanish.
Nodal said he and his partners wanted the lounge to have what he calls the Cuban mystique, which is centered mostly around its cigars.
Bischoff, a native of New Jersey who has spent most of his life in Florida, said the friendly atmosphere and wide selection of cigars are reasons why Habana Cuba Cigar differs from the rest.
Cigar brands offered in the lounge include the popular Cohiba and Macanudo; smaller boutique brands such as Puros Indios, described by Jorge Broche, 41, as extremely smooth; Camacho and Perdomo at a cost ranging from $3-$30.
The latest blend in the Oliveros line is the LTD, a limited edition cigar, which is scheduled for release about July 17. ''Our blends will accommodate the taste of the modern tobacco smoker,'' Nodal said.
If you want to have a alcoholic drink with your cigar, you will have to wait until the lounge gets a license to serve it. Nodal said he has applied for a beer and wine license for the bar and that ''it is a fairly tedious and slow process.'' No liquor will be served.
Jose Ortega, who drew a crowd at the bar as he lit an 18-inch Puros Indios cigar, came to the lounge to enjoy the cigar, but others came for the food and the games.
Sitting under large, white umbrellas in front of the store, some guests indulged in Spanish sausage, tortilla, yucca and garlic chicken. Others showed their competitive natures in a dominoes tournament.
Miami Lakes resident Pedro Garcia and his wife, Miriam, watched a dominoes game heat up in front of the store.
''That tournament will last for about three to four hours,'' he said.
About 25 participants, ranging from middle age to senior citizens, emersed themselves in the game. The grand prize -- a box of smooth Camacho stogies. Miriam Garcia said winning the game was about more than a chance to win a prize.
''It's an opportunity to stay in touch with our Cuban culture,'' she said, as she took in the sun while smoking a sweet-smelling, vanilla-flavored cigar.
Source: Miami Herald