Durham’s Old Havana to close, but owners are opening their new restaurant soon

Old Havana Sandwich Shop, which served croquetas, garbanzo beans and pork, guava pie and mantecaditos cookies, is closing Feb. 18, 2018. Its owners will open Copa down the street. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com
Old Havana Sandwich Shop, which served croquetas, garbanzo beans and pork, guava pie and mantecaditos cookies, is closing Feb. 18, 2018. Its owners will open Copa down the street. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com
DURHAM

There’s still a week’s worth of sandwiches to eat, but Durham’s Old Havana Sandwich Shop will close Sunday after seven years on Main Street.

The Feb. 18 closing at at 310 E. Main St., was expected as its owners work to open their new restaurant Copa, a different take on Cuban food and a restaurant built from a place in time rather than a certain cuisine.

In the former Revolution space down the street from Old Havana, owners Roberto Copa Matos and Elizabeth Turnbull will serve the dishes of Cuba from the 1800s, which Matos says have been largely lost in what we typically think of as Cuban food today. Instead of a cuisine somewhat resembling the rest of Latin America, Matos said Copa will seem more European-influenced.

“When we opened Old Havana seven years ago, we had no idea where this adventure would take us,” Turnbull said in a release. “We’re in a similar place today. But we know that Copa is the right next step for us, and for our guests.”

Roberto Copa-Matos, who owns Old Havana Sandwich Shop with Elizabeth Turnbull, is closing the Durham restaurant. They are opening Copa down the street with farm-to-table Cuban cuisine.
Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

Matos hopes to open by mid-March. They’re raising money for renovations through a Kickstarter campaign. As of Tuesday, they had raised $11,800 of the $20,000 goal. The campaign ends Feb. 28, and the money only will be released if the campaign is fully funded.

Over the past year, Old Havana has hosted dinners called The Lost Dishes of Cuba that forged much of what Copa will become. Surprises like a cold cucumber soup or Cuban paella will join the beloved sandwiches of Old Havana in the new restaurant.

“Copa is the answer to many different things, many of my dreams coming together, coming to fruition,” Matos said in an interview. “We’ll continue to serve the sandwiches our customers have come to enjoy these many years, but we’re deepening our cuisine and influence.”

Matos, who will be Copa’s chef, and Turnbull bought the space at 107 W. Main St., for Copa, wanting to have more control over their new venture after a series of landlords at Old Havana. Copa will be tapas-based and serve lunch and dinner.

“We’ll bring the best that Old Havana has and add a few items,” Matos said. “In the old kitchen we could only really cook pork, but now we’ll be able to do other kinds of meats, beef and chicken; we’re going to do that to enrich the offerings of Copa.”

The cocktail menu is also based on a moment in time, in this case the rum running days of prohibition, where Havana offered a nearby quench to American thirsts. Matos said cocktails will be heavily rum based and riff on the tastes of the 1920s.

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson

The details

Old Havana Sandwich Shop will be at 310 E. Main St., through Feb. 18. Go to oldhavanaeats.com/. The new Copa will be at 107 W. Main St. Go to copadurham.com. For more on the Kickstarter, go to http://kck.st/2GkZYNK.