Cuba; So Many Eats!!
Food! Food! Food! Though I do not consider myself a major foodie I am NEVER one to turn down a delicious plate of food, ESPECIALLY local dishes. However, there's been word that Cuban food really isn't that great, underwhelming, in other words. Though initially this may seem like the case because of what we are used to "Cuban food" tasting like, let's blame mostly Miami for that, Cuban food is actually bursting with flavor and unique blends of various ingredients. You just have to know where to look!
Keep in mind Cuban people make do with what they have. There is much that is forbidden on the island including spices and beef, yes even beef! It's known as "red gold" and it's a hot commodity in this country. It is illegal to slaughter your own cow for food, you can only milk it. The individual needs the state's permission to buy or sell a cow. Chicken and Pork are much cheaper and easier to obtain.
Below are a few local spots to get you going once you touch down.
Café Bohemia: This is a cafe in Plaza Vieja. They focus on salads and sandwiches, which are all very good. It's a great little spot for a quick bite as you explore the city. Address: Plaza Vieja, San Ignacio 364, Havana Hours: Sun - Sat 9:30 am - 10:00 pm
San Cristobal Paladar: Looking for a great dinner spot? This is it. The food is Cuban-Creole. Dishes including pork, fresh fish and variety of sea food are featured. This spot also provides you with pretty cool decor. There are hanging signs, swinging toucans, plants, mirrors, you name it. It's a one of a kind type place. Address: San Rafael No 469, E/ Lealtad y Campanario, Havana
Habana 61: Another really great place to eat for dinner. Go for the food, leave with a smile. Address: Calle Habana No. 61 | between Cuarteles Street and Peña Pobre Street, Havana.
Barrio Chino (Chinatown): There are tons of little restaurants everywhere in this neighborhood in Havana. Take a stroll through here and check out the menus they have on the outside of their restaurants. So many options!
La Guaria Restaurant Cuba: You're out with your friends, partner and you want to treat yourselves to a fancy delicious dinner? Then this is a must for you. It’s a very upscale restaurant where former President Obama has dined. You will need reservations ahead of time. Address: Concordia, Havana
La Bodeguita Del Medio: This is a local spot that attracts large tourist crowds. Many known celebrities have frequented and there is often live music and dance performances. They say this is where the mojito was born but that’s yet to be confirmed. Worth the effort in finding out! Located in Old Havana, just ask anyone and they'll point you in it's direction.
El Floridita: This is an old historic seafood restaurant and cocktail bar. It's very small but well known. Address: It is located at the end of Calle Obispo (Bishop Street), across from the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana.
La Fabrica de Arte Cubana: This place is truly one of the coolest places to go and visit. You will find an eclectic mix of young Cubans and tourists enjoying art performances, plays, lectures, dance performances, workshops etc. It is truly a fun, relaxed space to submerge yourself in the Cuban culture. If art is not your thing, go for the environment, food & drinks. There are a few bars where you can relax and get to meet new people from all over. Address: Calle 26, Corner 11, Havana Hours: 8:00 pm - 3:00 am.
A Prado y Neptuno: This place serves Pizza and Chorizo aka pork sausage. Address: Prado 408, on the corner with Neptuno in Central Havana.
El Patio Plaza De La Catedral: Good spot to try Cuban dish moro aka black beans and white rice with chicken and plantains Address: Habana Vieja, Havana
Hanoi: A place to try an odd mix of Cuban and Vietnamese combos Address: Calles Bernaza y Teniente Rey, Vedado, Havana
La Cocina de Lilliam: This is a cute garden restaurant. You feel exclusive eating here because of the decor/atmosphere. They serve traditional cuban dishes such as, Ropa Vieja, shredded stewed meat (usually beef, but here they use lamb). Open Tues-Sat. Address: Calle 48 1311, between 13 and 15, Playa, Havana
Restaurante Santy Pescador: This is a true local spot. It's cheap, popular and not a bad way to spend little time in the afternoon over looking the Jaimanitas River. It's a hard-to-find fisherman’s shack that features surprisingly good sushi. It's a cab ride away from the city. Address: Río. Jaimanitas, La Habana, 3c23 e/ 3raC 240 A, Havana.
La Juliana!: This place serves large portions and its pretty affordable for the amount of food you get, think chicken and rice. Sometimes you'll find american music spilling out of a jukebox and other times live music. One thing is for sure is that the food is not bad at all.
Cafe Arcangel: Looking for a great breakfast spot? Check this place out. The decor is also pretty cool, I recommend bringing your camera. Address: Concordia 57 Between Galiano & Aquila
D'Lirios across from the Capitolio. D'Lirios is a very popular spot serving local dishes. The line can get pretty long. I recommend going for an early lunch prior to the crowds.
I hope that by visiting a couple of these places your opinion on local Cuban food will curb. If you're interested in reading a bit more on why beef is so hard to obtain and the particular laws around it check out http://blog.victimsofcommunism.org/the-land-where-beef-is-banned/
Do you have some favorite spots you enjoyed while in Cuba? Feel free to share them below.