Casual Habana

Ben Rivero, owner, 125 Main Street, 201-880-9844; 12-8PM, Sunday; 11AM-9PM, Monday-Friday; 12-9PM, Saturday.

“When I bought this property, it was an abandoned fish market. But it had the mechanics necessary for a restaurant. I call our food ‘contemporary Cuban’—American with a strong Cuban influence. One of our most popular dishes is a pork shank that’s slow braised and then fried. There’s also ropa vieja—slow braised flank steak in a tomato-y sauce. Now I have 15 employees, so I do a lot less cooking and more supervising and running the business. I do a walk-through in the kitchen every day, checking on everything.

“I was born in Cuba and came here in 1980 as a child. I was classically trained at the Institute of Culinary Education. I started out owning a luncheonette in Paterson for 10 years, then opened this place in 2015. Our diners come from all over—locally from Hackensack, from the courthouse area, and then from other towns as well. We get a lot of repeat customers.

“I’m starting to see real changes in Hackensack. We see a different kind of walk-in traffic now, and people are coming into the town from other places. I’m very optimistic about the future because of these changes.”