please, help me eat well in cuba!!!
i've been reading through posts here, and have been looking all over online, and i've read horror story after horror story about the food in cuba. i don't believe for a second that good food can be that hard to find.
i understand that the paladares are the way to go, but unfortunately, i will be in varadero... yes at an all inclusive. please don't judge me... i'd "rough" it, but my girlfriend won't. so ideally, i am looking for great food and drinks in varadero, but outside of my hotel. any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
i do plan on visiting havana for a day or 2, so suggestions there would be great as well. from what i understand, i can not eat at these paladares unless i am staying in the home? is that right?
i am willing to take any other day trips from varadero for some great food as well... so please feel free to share.
Do not miss El Aljibe, best roast cuban chicken, and one of the greatest chicken dishes I've ever had.The paladares in the Lonely Planet guide were reliable, El Huron Azul(Vedado) Julia(Centro) are fantastic.Wish I could remember the one I went to in Miramar, also delicious.
La Bodeguita and El Floridita are musts.Coppelia in Vedado for the ice cream.
I forgot about the ice cream; muy sabroso. I no longer bring attention to the paladares in Miramar and Vedado because the successful ones are shut down by a swarm of soldiers at night. Remember that it is a communist country ruled with an iron hand.
Be very discreet with your camera and careful with your Canadian currency. No ATM machines. No travelers checks.
Ok, so here are some recommendations:
El Fenix - Animas #273 (between Aguila and Amistad) in Centro Havana
We were taken to this place by a cab driver after we were unable to locate another paladar that was recommended to us. It's up a very sketchy flight of stairs in an almost totally unmarked building on a dark side street off the Prado (a broad avenue that passes the Capitolio Nacional). We had lobster there. Take a cab - don't walk.
Paladar Dona Blanquita - Paseo di Marti (also known as the Prado) #158, between Colon and Refugio. No phone.
We just walked into this place. It's incredibly kitchily decorated -as are most places in Cuba - but we ate reasonably well for very little money. The balcony overlooks the street which makes it a very pleasant place to sit.
Paladar La Guarida - Calle Concordia #418 between Gervasio and Escobar. Phone 863-7315.
This place is the one we missed. It was on our list but we just ran out of days. It comes very highly recommended both in guidebooks and on Cuba websites. Not sure of the price range.
I can't give you the exact address for Los Asturianitos because it doesn't show up in the Lonely Planet. It was recommended to us by the owner of the casa particular where we were staying - she said that if she ever goes out to eat, this was the place she goes. You can find it almost directly across the street from the Capitolio building. There is often a line-up to get in. I believe it's some kind of Spanish club on the main floor, then there's the fancier restaurant called Los Nardos upstairs, and above that Los Asturianitos. The food was good and it was not expensive.
For lunches buy a roast pork sandwich on the street or some street pizza or just go into one of the many many cafes that open onto the street in Havana Vieja, listen to great music and eat whatever they happen to be serving. It's such a great city. Beautiful in a dodgy, decrepit sort of way, with really amazing people. have a great time.
Bring your own black pepper; there's none on the island. The food is bland, and your animal protein is limited to chicken and pork. Lobster is surprisingly available in tourist spots because fishermen can free-dive for them close to shore. Very little fish, because no one is allowed to have a boat.
The local beer, Hatuey, is passable, and often your only choice. A cuba libre is alternately called a "haha" because the idea of Cuba being "free" is such a joke.
In Old Havana, an afternoon getting buzzed on mojitos at La Bodeguita is a must. It's on a cool side street with wrought iron balconies like New Orleans. A touristy but interesting restaurant is La Floridita, said to be the birthplace of the daquiri. A bit pricey by local standards, but the beautiful, wide mahogany bar summons up images of yesteryear. Strolling the malecon along the seawall in Havana, and the old spanish square, is a remarkable experience.
You might check out this site for some reviews
I'll pretty much agree with Nyleve, along the lines that if your expectations aren't overly high, you can enjoy the food.
We too stayed in Veradero, overnighted in Havana. We did eat at a paladar, but I can't remember the name. It was in Havana east, perhaps Havana Nuevo, above the city proper and was enjoyable.
A standout was a chicharon plate at Bodeguita Del Medio. A tourist destination bar/resto for sure, but they make a good Mojito, and that pork skin.....ohh man.
You're confusing paladares with a casa particular. A paladar is a sort of home-based restaurant, although some are more in-home than others. You can just walk into one of those, if you know where to find it, and get a meal. A casa particular is a private home that rents out rooms to tourists and to eat at a casa you do have to be renting a room.
I know nothing about Varadero, but in Havana there are quite a few possibilities. You might want to pick up a copy of Lonely Planet Cuba in which there are many many paladars listed, both by area and by price level. You could even take it out of the library and just photocopy the relevent pages (I didn't tell you to do that!). The quality of the food at a paladar can vary widely - from just ok to excellent. In general, we found that wherever we ate the choices were similar - chicken, fish, pork, rice, beans, avocado, etc., etc. I, personally, really enjoyed most of the meals. Maybe not to everyone's taste. The food is not spicy, but usually heavy on garlic and a little greasy (but in a good way). One night we ate at Paladar Dona Blanquita, another night at Casa Felix. I might be able to hunt down the addresses for you if you're interested - both meals were decent. Casa Felix had very good lobster. I think we paid between $10 and $20, including beer and/or mojitos. We also ate one night at a proper restaurant across the street from the Capitol building that was called Los Asturianitos and it was excellent. It's upstairs from Los Nardos, which is a little more expensive but also good.
There's another paladar that we never got to which I wanted to try. It is highly recommended - I'll see if I can find the name and address for you.
Look, it's not Paris, that's for sure, but the food can be really enjoyable if you put yourself into the right frame of mind. What you will be served is far far better than what the Cubans ever eat themselves - the ingredients are simply too expensive or difficult for them to obtain unless they are licensed to serve tourists. But it's authentic and interesting and the fruit and seafood can be fabulous. What was interesting was that although lobster (Caribbean lobster) isn't actually supposed to be legal, it is very often available in casas or paladars - and when it is, it costs less than chicken. This might be less true in Havana than in other cities, but we had some really great meals for next to nothing.
thanks so much for your reply.
i am by no means expecting paris, nor do i want paris. i love all cuisine, and my absolute favourite thing about visiting other countries is experiencing their culture. what i am anticipating is good wholesome meals expressing the spirit of cuba. if i wanted fancy meals i'd stay here in toronto or head to the french riviera.
so thanks for your opinions, they sound like exactly what i am looking for! i will look up the names of the places you've provided to try to locate them myself, but yes, if you do have addresses they would be very handy!
i was thinking i'd pick up a book anyhow just for convenience sake. so i'll take a peak at lonely planet cuba.
thanks again so much!
now hopefully someone will be able to tell me where to eat in varadero.