Dining in Havana
When you go to Cuba, prepare to feast on Caribbean classics pulled straight from the sea. We dined on lobster, snapper, and tuna at great prices. In no particular order, here are the restaurants we enjoyed in Havana. Some of these places were so good, they already made an appearance in our Top 5 Things To Do in Havana post! Click on the name for the tripadvisor page with ratings, menus and addresses. Remember, there is no easy internet access in Cuba, so if you want to visit these places, be sure to mark them on your map before you leave.
Our first dinner was recommended by our host, being one of his favorite hangouts within walking distance from the Casa Densil. It was a great intro to Havana, located right on the Malecón and with plenty of fresh seafood options. We had lobster and grilled fish, which were served with rice and beans, avocado, salads and fried bananas.
Paladar Doña Eutimia
Most businesses in Cuba are government-operated, but there are some privately-owned restaurants called Paladars. This one is such a favorite that when we arrived for late lunch, we were asked if we had reservations. Thankfully they were able to seat us outside, which was very hot, but enjoyable. So you might have your host call ahead for a reservation, especially if you plan to have dinner there. Located off the Cathedral Square, it was an easy walk down Calle Obispo from the Parque Central. We had Ropa Vieja (the national dish), Grilled Fish and Shrimp, Shrimp al Ajillo, and Pollo Asado, all ranging from $7-$10 CUC.
Our driver recommended we see the show at El Guajirito because on this particular night, original members of the Buena Vista Social Club would be playing. We arrived at dinner time, so we bought the dinner and show package for $50 CUC each. The food was okay if uninspiring, but the show was one of the highlights of the trip. You can see the show without dinner for $30 CUC, so you may consider eating dinner elsewhere first. Both options include 3 cocktails and dinner also included an appetizer and dessert.
Do yourself a favor and youtube “Weekend in Havana” and watch Carmen Miranda sing about Sloppy Joe’s. This bar is where the Sloppy Joe was invented, and they are still serving it up on a big ol’ bun with fries and lots of green olives. A tourist trap, maybe, but we enjoyed it so much we ended up coming back here again the next day, when a magician performed at our table and made the visit that much more memorable. They have an extensive menu and bar, and I was happy to see specialty Campari drinks.
Our Italian host also recommended this restaurant, and when we arrived we figured out why it’s one of his favorites… it’s Italian food! Though we wanted to spend what few meals we had on local cuisine, we still enjoyed the Cuban spin on these classic recipes—i.e. most of the pizzas has lobster and shrimp. These pizzas were definitely big enough to share, but we were all so hungry we each ordered our own and ended up boxing up the leftovers to give to the local kids we knew would be playing futbol in the street after dinner. Just note, they charge extra for to-go boxes and bags. The restaurant was really well decorated and the service was impeccable. Be sure to walk around and take a peek into the kitchen where you can see the giant brick pizza oven.
Our neighborhood had no breakfast options open before 10:30, so we walked to the main plaza and found a bakery open right next to the Hotel Inglaterra. They had eggs and toast, coffee, and of course plenty of bakery offerings. This is also where we found our driver for the day, who took the four of us to the Playas del Este, the Cojimar fishing village where Hemingway was inspired to write The Old Man and the Sea, and to Hemingway’s house at Finca Vigia all for $35 CUC.
Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Toast $2 CUC and Cafe con Leche $1.50 CUC.
We ended up here by accident, and after a look at the very expensive menu, we decided to just split a platter and leave. Not sure I would recommend it, but the atmosphere was cool.
Another morning we had breakfast at the Hotel Inglaterra. There is cafe seating outside, or you can sit in the restaurant which had a $7 CUC breakfast buffet.
Some notes: It’s always a good idea to check receipts before you pay, because there were a few places in Havana where extra drinks mysteriously showed up on our bill. Also, be sure to ask if gratuity is included in the bill because it differs from place to place. Sometimes it will be clearly marked and sometimes it will be “hidden” in the bill.
Another thing to note: We were approached multiple times by locals who would insist on leading us to our destinations, even if we knew where we were going. It wasn’t a big deal because we enjoyed their company, but they always ended with a story about their children and needing money for milk rations. Just be prepared to be accompanied wherever you’re walking, and keep some change in your pockets so you have something to give them.
Have any favorite spots to add to the list? Let us know!