Where to Eat in Havana
Most people who visit Havana, Cuba go for the sun, rum, cigars, music, beautiful women, or antique cars. Rarely does anyone mention food as a primary reason for visiting this Caribbean paradise
Until fairly recently, tourists had good reason to complain about the cuisine; after all, many of the basic spices and ingredients were often lacking and, quite frankly, the food was often quite bland.
As Cuba has redirected its economy and efforts towards attracting more and more tourists, it has also witnessed a significant increase in the amount and quality of its food offerings.
Cuba is a not a gourmet country. The food is simple and based on chicken, pork, beef and fish, prepared in a simple manner mostly served with rice, black beans, cucumber and tomatoes. In state restaurants they often serve food which was frozen before and therefore isn’t fresh. Often the meals are more expensive than in Europe but unfortunately the quality is lower.
The best food can be found in paladores, private family owned restaurants. The food is better (and often cheaper) than in the state-run places. We went to a great one in Cienfuegos, recommended by other guests in our hotel (word of mouth is the best way to find these).
There was no printed menu but lots of choice – you just need to concentrate while the waiter runs through the options! And then there are the casas particulares or bed & breakfast places. They have a limited choice but the ingredients are always fresh.
For me, the choice places to eat in Havana were:
La Bodeguita del Medio: Best “Mojito” and Black Beans and Rice in Havana!
First of all, this is not the easiest restaurant to find – but it’s well worth the search. It’s not that we were indiscriminate because we were starving after two weeks of searching for – it’s that the food really IS delicious here.
A bonus is the fact that it’s pretty inexpensive. The interior is extremely casual – some might refer to it as a “dive” – but it’s rich in history. Former patrons include Chile’s Salvador Allende – even Cuba’s own Castro – and you’ll find all kind of interesting celebrity autographs (and customer graffiti) covering the dark, wood panelled walls.
The staff is friendly and nobody hurries you to eat and leave….it’s a very relaxed atmosphere
Do NOT miss the famous rum drink (Hemingway’s favourite!!) “el mojito”. The peppermint leaves are strong – as is the cane sugar – so go easy on this one. I’ve had “mojitos” everywhere and this place served them up the best!
I had the chicken and pork with black beans and rice – I’m a pretty good expert on this dish – and it was fantastic here. Not dry, and just enough spice to keep things interesting.
And don’t forget the Cuban Cigars !