Marta Quintana's basket of recipes goes back a long way.
In that basket, the chef of has one of her great grandmother's recipes written on the back of a receipt from a lumberyard, circa 1887.
Quintana draws upon those kind of keepsakes to refresh the menu at her 2-year-old restaurant in downtown Towson.
Business is up by as much as 20 percent since the restaurant grew its catering business and launched a foray into the packaged foods market.
The restaurant sells products like its sauces and "fresh pak" microwaveable meals through grocery chains including Whole Foods and Balducci's, with a deal set to be completed with Harris Teeter. From the Towson storefront, Havana Road's products travel as far north as New York and as far west as Cincinnati and parts of Kentucky.
"We're all the way out to Cincinnati, and you figure that it's a food that most folks in Cincinnati don't think of first thing," said Michael Storey, Havana Road's director of business development.
Back home, Quintana just completed the first overhaul of the menu since the restaurant opened in 2010. It's larger than the old menu, and includes former weekend-only specials like vegetarian sliders and sea scallops.
Many of the new dishes step outside the bounds of what may traditionally be called Cuban cuisine, but Quintana said that's the fun of it. In the decades before the Castro Regime, Quintana said, Cuba was a "European Mecca."
"We had Chinese Cubans, we had Jewish Cubans, we had Moroccan Cubans, we had Lebanese Cubans, we had Spaniard Cubans," Quintana said. "Right after the Spaniards colonized Cuba, all of Europe emigrated. We had a huge population of Cuban Jews and from there came a lot of different global recipes."
The new menu includes many of those recipes that came to Marta from friends and relatives over the years. She tested some of the recipes out as weekend specials.
"My grandmother used to make her Cuban sofrito with a light tomato sauce and she would add all the Moroccan condiments," she said. "I sold out in one night, and I made 20 pounds of it."
Quintana also rolled out an afternoon tapas menu, featuring a shrimp po boy and a "Cuban Cigar," a lump crab meat croquette shaped like a cigar and served on cuban bread with escarole, avocados and tomatoes.
Quintana and Storey say they've also gotten lucky with a string of media appearances. Quintana was recently tapped for a segment on mom entrepreneurs on NPR's "Tell Me More." She also is slated to be a guest chef on the PBS series "Sara's Weeknight Meals," hosted by chef Sara Moulton. Quintana said other TV appearances may be in the works for her.
"A lot of this is one thing that leads to another," said Storey. "A lot of good things have come to us just because we tried them, we pushed ahead."