Restaurant Recommendations in Havana, Cuba
I'm heading to Havana and wanted to see if there were any recommended restaurants. While it's in the tropics, I've heard it's not a foodie's paradise. Thanks in advance!
Cuban food in Cuba sucks. It's better on Calle Ocho in Miami. That said, ask about the better paladares in Miramar and Vedado as soon as you arrive. I hesitate to recommend a paladar because when they become popular soldiers close them in the middle of the night. Success is one's downfall in Cuba; it's not allowed. Are you flying into Jose Marti? Will you hire a car and driver? I recommend that you do. Vedado is where a lot of the old mansions are peeling apart and are occupied by higher up military personnel, and a few paladares there are allowed to stay open because of good connections. The state owned restaurants are characteristically bland, including the hotel restaurants in the once elegant Nacional all the way to the new slick Melia Cohiba. Plan on beans and rice and plantains with every meal, and then alternating between chicken and pork. Bring a pepper shaker, there is none on the island. You should be able to get good fruit and juices for breakfast. You can get a lobster dinner at El Floridita for about 38 bucks which is what your server earns in 5 months. At least go for a daiquiri and the cool mahogany bar. La Bodeguita del Medio is a must just to get loaded on mojitos on a hot afternoon. There are 4 or 5 restos at the Marina Hemingway a little west of Miramar on Av. Cinco, it's first class and a good place to make connections.
Be judicious with the use of a camera and expect lots of articulated russian busses belching exhaust in your face as you eat ice cream or drink coffee on the sidewalks, and lots of power blackouts. The old architecture and the square and the friendly folks despite their wretched life are the highlights.
I'm sure you know to bring only foreign currency - Canadian dollars, Euros, or Mexican pesos. You may have vouchers depending on what country you arrive from, but your credit cards are useless there and internet is a thing of the future. Communism is a very strange system and don't joke about it while you are there.
Also: you will wonder why you can't find a fish dinner, on an island with 3000 miles of coast in the beautiful Caribbean. Answer: Cubans aren't allowed to have a boat.
La Guarida -in a beautifful but run down art nouveau building on the top floor. It had a great selection of cocktails,very good food, a nice clientele (all foreign-it's not cheap) and a beautiful view of the city. We loved it. The food scene is not nearly as dismal as the above posters have commented. lots of little cafes in the old part of town. We were there this January and also in 2001. There's quite a change to the positive
We were there in Dec. 2011. Some enjoyable meals at paladars:
La Casa www.restaurantelacasacuba.com take a taxi and arrange for driver to pick you up.
Good seafood. Charming owner, Alejandro, who speaks English well.
Brewery/resto on Plaza Vieja: "Factoria Plaza Vieja" nice looking burgers and grilled skewers
La Guarida -- climb a few flights of stairs to this intriguing paladar. Fascinating. Good food.
Decameron 832 24 44, near the Melia Cohiba. Went twice. Good lobster.
La Fontana, grilled meat and fish.
Try to go to Hemingway's house. A great place to visit, if you enjoy reading.
Many of the gov't run restos have the same basic menu: chicken, pork, fish, with same side dishes. Paladars have much better food and service. I DID take a small jar of peppery seasoning, which was very useful to me and our entire group. I would definitely take one again.
And for coffee. . . . well, there is some good coffee, but those in the know in our group took packets of instant Starbuck's VIA with them. A good idea, I think.
When we were there, fish and lobster were plentiful in the restos. And not too expensive.
If you happen to stay at the Melia Cohiba, it's breakfast buffet is elaborate.
We loved Havana and its people. You don't go for the food, but it's still wonderful.