What to Eat and Drink in Havana
When restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba were loosened last summer, my fiancé and I rushed to check it out. Before it becomes Americanized by hotel and restaurant chains, I wanted to see the Caribbean’s largest island for the archeological and historic World Heritage site that it is- with all of its pre-revolutionary buildings, unadulterated local culture and colorful classic cars. I mean, who needs Hard Rock Café, or any other tourist trap, when there’s amazing food being cooked in paladares- private family-owned restaurants that are often inside homes, or in preserved areas of old buildings that are crumbling yet stunning.
This May we traveled to Cuba by cruise ship on the Norwegian Sky, which offers cruisers about 36 hours in Havana. Although two days is not nearly enough time to experience everything this big city has to offer, I cannot wait to return and experience more.
Where to Eat in Havana
Sitting at the top of an old, dilapidated three-story building, La Guarida had the best food we tried in Cuba. In fact, it was so good that immediately after our dinner there, we made a reservation to have lunch there the following afternoon. Nothing we ate here was less than incredible, but I recommend the smoked marlin tacos ($9), octopus carpaccio ($9), suckling pig ($18), yuca with mojo sauce (the best $2.50 you’ll ever spend). And no matter how stuffed you are after your meal, do NOT skip the chocolate tres leches ($7.50) for dessert. If the weather is nice, we recommend that you dine in the outside area deck on the 2nd floor. Be sure to walk up the stairs to the top of the property, where you can take in outstanding city views, and have a photo shoot if you desire.
A great spot to have a meal with amazing views of the sea and city is Café Laurent, located near the Malecon. The restaurant sits on the fifth floor of a 1950’s apartment building, and it’s a hidden gem that serves up fresh seafood and Spanish-Cuban fusion dishes. We had the pan cooked lobster and shrimp, served over mashed sweet potatoes, and washed it down with cold mojitos. Expect to pay around $45 per couple. If you can get lucky enough to sit on the small patio outside to take in the views, we recommend it.
Where to Drink and Party in Havana
I recommend starting your mornings at Café El Escorial in Plaza Vieja. This little cafe serves all types of coffee, from a (very) strong Cuban coffee, to lattes to coffee daiquiris. While you’re there, be sure to order one of their delicious chocolate bonbons!
A pretty place to have a cocktail during the day is the garden of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, arguably Cuba’s most famous hotel. Built in the 1930’s, the palm tree lined entrance looks like a smaller version of The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach.
My favorite bar in Havana was El Floridita. Check it out and you’ll quickly discover why Ernest Hemmingway loved it there so much. The service is great, the bright red décor is so classic, and their famous daquiris are strong, tasty and inexpensive ($6). On the night that we visited, there was also live music.
From El Floridita, take a cocotaxi (an auto rickshaw-type taxi vehicle) to La Bodeguito del Medio, another Hemmingway favorite. Don’t expect a drinks menu - the only thing you need to be sipping here is a mojito made with Havana Club rum! La Bodeguito del Medio is tiny- about the size of a master bedroom- and it gets really crowded. But the vibe is awesome and it’s a really good time.
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Jeremy Olsher is the Broker and Principal of Mizner Residential Realty. He has been a full-time licensed, realtor in Delray beach, Florida for fourteen years. Since February 2005, Jeremy has worked through the challenges, changing market conditions, and ups and downs of the South Florida real estate market.
- Jeremy Olsher, Broker - Mizner Residential Realty