He and his crew have spent two years bringing the watering hole back to life. To keep Joe's as faithful to the original as possible, they've examined historic photos and talked to old-timers like Rafa who remember the way it was.
Messy ground-beef sandwiches will be on the new menu, naturally. Iznaga said they apparently originated as an Abeal family recipe, though others have also claimed they invented them.
Also on the menu will be the Errol Flynn, an icy vodka and tomato-juice concoction garnished with a celery spear. Among the few changes is that the new bar will be air-conditioned for the comfort of sweaty patrons.
At the intersection of Animas and Zulueta streets on a recent morning, dozens of workers buzzed about painting and finishing the bar's wood surfaces. A Sloppy Joe's sign hung from the building's corner, wrapped in plastic and ready to be unveiled for opening day.
Construction setbacks have delayed the re-opening from Iznaga's original target around New Year's, and the first fingers of Havana Club rum will likely flow sometime in February.
Across the Florida Straits, where rum-runner and speakeasy operator Joe Russell named his own bar Sloppy Joe's in the 1930s at the suggestion of his friend Ernest Hemingway, operators are delighted that the original is being reborn.
"It's exciting because obviously our history is tied into their history," said Donna Edwards, brand manager at the Key West Joe's, which recently celebrated 75 years at its current location. "Hemingway and Russell, they would frequent Sloppy Joe's when they were in Havana. It's a piece of history, and our history is now coming to life again."
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