My Favourite Havana Restaurants by Neighbourhood

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I have been based in Havana almost 2 years and I’m finally writing the best Havana restaurants post!

This is unbelievable because I decided to base myself in Havana to write this post and yet I never felt it was done. It still isn’t and so it will be an ongoing post as new restaurants are opening all the time.

I love to see the entrepreneurship in the city. Yes there are fantastic places to eat, both traditional and international food.

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    This post acknowledges the touristy Havana restaurants that many people recommend but I wouldn’t eat at. Also I’m linking to restaurants in Havana that are on my radar but I haven’t been to yet. 

    This list reflects 20% of where I’ve eaten in Havana in the last two years. The remaining 80% were pretty good but I wouldn’t go back. 

    At first I explored where Cubans ate as my friends took me to places with traditional Cuban food. These spots are mostly in the Vedado neighbourhood because that’s where they live.

    A year ago I moved into Old Havana to explore restaurants there – where more often you’ll find tourists.But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore these restaurants in Old Havana.

    They are run by Cuban entrepreneurs that want to provide a great modern Cuban experience.

    And it shows that Cuba is not frozen in time, it changes like everything else.

     

    But First…What is Cuban Food Like?

    Cuban food, liver, malanga, tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage on a plate
    Cubans are excellent at cooking offcuts like liver.

    But I have bad news, the if you’re looking for the best Cuban food it’s not easy. The best Cuban food is in people’s homes.

    And that’s because going out to eat is not something Cubans do often. Going out to eat is something Cubans do when they can’t eat at home.

    But they’d rather eat at home.

    Second piece of bad news.

    The best Cuban food is not in Havana, but out in the rural areas.

    Even Habaneros will tell you stories of incredible pork and seafood they had in the campo where the food is fresh and much cheaper than the city.

    I’ve had amazing stewed goat outside Cienfuegos and incredible pork in the mountains outside Trinidad.

    In this case my Intrepid guide arranged it on this Cuba Explorer tour – which goes to show that in many ways you can get closer to an authentic experience with a tour.

    I won’t lie. Cuba is not home to one of the world’s greatest cuisines. But it’s not as bad as people think.

    If you eat with Cubans, you appreciate the food more. It’s about the experience.

    Because Cubans are the masters of making do.

    They don’t have steady access to ingredients so they do the best they can – and in many ways that’s impressive – because Italians would lose their sh*t if garlic belonged in a recipe and they couldn’t find it.

    But Cubans, would see they have mountain garlic and just use that.

    Cubans are fantastic cooks.

    And despite having issues with consistent supplies of ingredients they can improvise a recipe like no one’s business.

    I say the best food in Havana is in my friend Giselle’s home.
     

     
    Cuban food on a table in Las Terrazas Cuba

    Food at Typical Cuban Restaurants

    The key to finding the best Cuban restaurants is to eat where Cubans are – this is not in resorts or hotels. You’ll need to go outside Habana Vieja/Old Havana where dinner is $8-25.

    In Centro neighbourhood and farther out there are always little spots where you can buy a full plate of lunch for $3-5 or dinner for under $10.

    Granted the decor can be lacking, but the food makes up for it. Because in Havana the quality of food doesn’t increase equally with the price.

    So it’s even more disappointing when you spend $25 bucks for ropa vieja when you could have found it in a cafeteria for $5.

    If you’re lucky you’ll get a choice of plain white rice or moros y cristianos, which is beans and rice.

    But don’t just dig in right away, Cubans often dress their rice with oil, salt and vinegar, just as you would dress a salad.

     
    O'Reilly 304 Paladar in Havana
    O’Reilly 304 Paladar in Havana

    What is a Paladar

    When I first came to Cuba I wondered how I could find these secret Cuban restaurants in peoples home’s called paladar.

    It seems this information was about 25 years old, because Havana restaurants are pretty much like restaurants in any other city.

    A paladar is a private restaurant.

    The word literally means palate. But the name comes from Vale Tudo a popular Brazilian soap opera that aired in Cuba in the 1990s. The main character owned a chain of restaurants called Paladar.

    21 DELICIOUS:
    Cuban Fruit

    When the government first allowed private restaurants in 1995 during the special period. The Berlin wall had fallen, the Soviet Union fell apart and Russia was no longer sending money to the Cuban government.

    It was an economic crisis for the country as there were food shortages and the average Cuban lost 12lbs.

    The government change regulations to encourage development. People were allowed to create restaurants out of their homes.

    But today paladares aren’t in people’s homes and just look like regular restaurants. 

    Paladares tend to be a bit more expensive than state-owned restaurants. But they are also more modern, have better service (sometimes) and almost always have better food.

    If you’re looking to put money back into Cuban’s pockets this is the way to do it.

    Unless otherwise stated all of these restaurants are paladares. Which is simply to say they aren’t government owned.

     
    One of two breweries in Havana
    One of two breweries in Havana, with two kinds of beer. Dark and light.

    Tipping in Cuba

    Service isn’t quite the same in Cuba as it is in Canada or the United States. In fact, most often it’s completely non-existent.

    Don’t expect someone to come halfway through your meal and ask you if you’d like something.

    If Cubans want something they call the server over with a hand up or sometimes even a psst

    When I do go somewhere that has great service I’m always surprised.

    Clearly someone in charge of the restaurant has been abroad or has learned tourist demands.

    • Standard tipping is 10%. In Cuban restaurants my friends usually just leave whatever change is left from their bill. In tourist restaurants feel free to tip more. But I don’t believe in overtipping in local restaurants because I’ve been to places where long term it means restaurants turn away locals because they want foreign tips.
    • At resorts tip your maid $1 CUC per person per day. 
    • Please pay your bathroom attendant. A ten cent CUC coin is acceptable for washroom attendants. Some people have issues paying to go to the bathroom but it’s a voluntary tip. If you don’t want to pay don’t take the toilet paper. However, keep in mind these people aren’t employees. They are often women and elderly who need to supplement their income. They buy the toilet paper themselves and keep the bathroom clean. Instead of looking for a handout they have found a way to earn money.
    • You likely won’t be driving but Cubans pay parqueadores, or parking attendants. My friend usually pays 25 cents to $1 CUC, depending on where we are, to make sure no one steals his electric motorcycle.
    • Musicians. You’ll find them in bars, restaurants, on the streets and along the malecon. They’ll take a few song requests and giving them $1 CUC is enough.
     
    Aerial view of Parque Central in Old Havana Cuba

    Best Havana Restaurants by Neighbourhood

    So this is a list of Havana restaurants I recommend to friends who visit the city.

    Some are local joints and others are chic instagram friendly spots, but all of them have great food.

    Best Restaurants in Old Havana

    Although everyone wants to sit out on a patio and sip a cool cocktail, you won’t find any Cubans there – unless they are visiting from Miami. 

    Cubans LOVE air conditioning. And why wouldn’t they?

    During the day they don’t want to be sweating through their snug fitting clothing, they want to be cool and comfortable. Inside.

    So if you walk by a place that has all the windows up and doesn’t look inviting, walk through the door and you’ll find it filled with Cubans.

    Where I don’t go:

    • Los Nardos is a very popular restaurant with food from Spain and Cuba. Although it has been around for decades you can get far better food elsewhere. You have to wait in line to go in because so many hotels send unsuspecting guests there. Also for some reason the dining room is so dark you can barely see your food. You couldn’t pay me to go back here.
    • Sloppy Joe’s where ironically I had the worst Sloppy Joe in my life. 
    • Floridita and Bodeguita del Medio. No one eats at Floradita and I’ve heard mixed reviews of Bodequita del Medio. Both these spots are the biggest tourist traps. Drinks are watered down and pricey. But some people want to follow the Hemingway in Cuba trail. To each their own.

    Walking around Old Havana you may get approached by someone telling you to go to Paladara La Familia.

    I’ve heard it’s a mediocre restaurant but pays good commission to street hustlers who bring in tourists.

     

    El Cafe

    I love El Cafe because when I want a beet and carrot juice ($2 CUC) or an American-style breakfast ($4 CUC) they always do a great job. 

    It’s also such a heartwarming story of a Cuban who lived in London. He returned with his wife and opened this Old Havana cafe, which employs locals.

    It doesn’t have Cuban traditional foods but I think it’s well worth supporting.

    358 La Amargura, La Habana

    Lo de Monik interior, one of the most popular Havana restaurants in Old Havana

    Lo de Monik

    Vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free? This place has you covered.

    One of the new generation of Havana restaurants that really understands tourists needs. They also speak English and have menus with both English and Spanish.

    You can eat very well under $10 CUC. And if you’re craving vegetables they do have great veggie tacos.

    But remember it’s not Mexico so those tortillas aren’t going to be the same.

    Corner of Chacon y Compostela, La Habana, Cuba

     

    El Dandy

    On one of the corners of wifi hotspot Parque Cristo, this tiny bar/restaurant is always filled with tourists.

    The design is gorgeous and I have a soft spot for it as it’s featured in this Leoni Torres video – my favourite Cuban singer.

    In the 50s the space was a small bodega and bar, but for many years was a private home until 2014 when El Dandy opened.

    Food is a mix of Cuban, Spanish and Mexican with the quesadillas and tacos being the most popular.

    Teniente Rey, La Habana, Cuba

    O’Reilly 304

    I must admit the first time I visited I thought it was going to be all hype.

    After it was covered in the New York Times it seemed no visiting journalist could find a decent restaurant in Havana other than this. 

    You won’t find Cubans here but the food is great. There are lots of fresh vegetables that they buy directly from a farmer and lemonades in a jar that are instagram worthy.

    Just make sure you ask for one with a little sugar – as Cubans love things a bit too sweet for my liking.

    304 O’Reilly, La Habana, Cuba

     

    El de Frente

    When O’Reilly 304 got too big they needed to expand across the street – not something exactly easy as you’re only allowed to own ONE business.

    Yet Cubans seem to find a way, or an accommodating relative.

    The menu is similar but not the same. Although they do have the large lemonades.

    Food is great and there’s a rooftop as well – although there are umbrellas it could be sweltering during the day.

    I’ve recommended both O’Reilly 304 and El de Frente to many people who have all had a great time.

    303 O’Reilly, La Habana

     

    Paladar Don Omar

    I’ve been here SO many times with my friends. They think it is the best value in Old Havana as they don’t eat at the restaurants I previously mentioned. We could pay double elsewhere but the quality isn’t twice as good. 

    This is truly a spot for Cubans. Prices are in CUP but you can pay in CUC (read this post about money in Cuba if you are confused about it) I’ve never seen foreigners.

    Although they provide markers for diners to write on the walls where they are from so tourists have somehow found it.

    Yet this is a bit of a hidden restaurant in Old Havana. There is no sign.

    The third photo (where my friend Erik is patiently waiting for me to take a photo) is the entrance. It’s just to the left of a restaurant called Pachamama. Y

    ou go inside and on the left there is a stairwell to the restaurant.

    The menu is on a blackboard as it changes with availability. I suspected it was because they would increase the price for foreigners but they showed me a binder with all the prices and a menu in English.

    Also once I ordered something expensive ($5 CUC) and they responded with the price just to make sure I wanted it.

    An odd note, lately all of the beer here has been from Vietnam – you take what you can get!

    164 Bernaza

     

    Mas Habana

    This is a solid spot for evening music on the weekend or a 2 for 1 Happy Hour cocktail. 

    The first time I visited the server convinced me the fish was fantastic. It was a gigantic plate of food and enough fish for two people.

    I was worried about the price yet it was only $10 CUC. 

    They had a great jazz band in. Which is welcomed after you hear Guantanamera for the 50th time in Old Havana.

    Cuba really values the arts and so there are some fantastic musicians. Don’t forget to keep a CUC in a side pocket to tip.

    Calle Habana No. 308 Between San Juan de Dios y O’Reilly, La Habana

    D’Next Bar Cafeteria

    I’ve also been to D’Next so many times. Because it has air conditioning and my friends love air conditioning. It’s actually too cold for me. Bring a sweater.

    If you need to watch any sports on television this is one of your best bets. The have satellite and have pretty much all the soccer/football matches.

    The neon green diner style decor is odd to me. But the food is pretty good with $5CUC burgers, pizzas and a number of sandwiches.

    But really I think we come here because it’s cold. 

    512 Teniente Rey, La Habana

     
    5 Sentidos restaurant in Cuba, food on table

    5 Sentidos

    If you want to go formal white linen fine dining this is the spot. Main dishes are a reasonable $12-20 CUC and the rabbit I ate here was fantastic.

    Wine is also very reasonably priced.

    San Juan de Dios 67, esq. a Compostela, La Habana

    Donde Lis

    I like to recommend places for when you have to travel with picky eaters. Donde Lis has good variety if you’re with people who just want pasta and cheese.

    Or if you’re with a big group as you need to make reservations. 

    The staff is quite lovely and speak English. Overall great service.

    Tejadillo 163, La Habana

     

    El Shamuskia’O

    There is technically only one vegetarian restaurant in Havana. But many restaurants in Old Havana cater to vegetarian tourist. However, they also need to have meat options because history has shown they won’t survive.

    Food here is pretty good and it is very popular for $1 CUC mojitos during Happy Hour – otherwise drinks can get pricey.

    My favourite dish here was fufu, a Cuban dish with plantains – and it also had pork.

    308 Muralla, La Habana

    Ivan Justo

    Chef Ivan Justo studied in Montreal and was once Fidel Castro’s chef. He has lived a very interesting life.

    The restaurant is a series of levels and feels like an eclectic collection of trinkets, photos, knick knacks and your grandmothers house.

    Frozen mojitos are a treat and there are lots of small bite options if you just like to snack.

    La Esquina, Aguacate, La Habana

     

    El Rum Rum de la Habana

    A very typical tourist restaurant in Havana. But the food and service here are really good.

    I ordered the shrimp in a rum sauce for $7 CUC and it was great – and surprising as I’ve had so many bad shrimp dishes I had almost given up on ordering it. 

    There are English menus and an employee outside trying to get your attention to come in.

    256 Calle Empedrado, La Habana

    La Caribeña

    Located on the very popular Obispo street, most tourists miss this spot because the doors are shut. Because of the air conditioning!

    It’s filled with tourists eating pizza, pasta, and a number of other typical Cuban dishes at very reasonable prices.

    Food here is enormous and a gigantic lasagna that feeds 2 people normally is less than $5 CUC.

    I don’t recommend eating Italian in Cuba – ever. But I eat here a lot. Sometimes I just want something familiar and I get take out lasagna and then eat it over 3-4 meals.

    408 Obispo, La Habana

     

    Havana Especial cocktail in Cafe El Oriente a Havana Restaurant

    Café del Oriente

    The only state-owned restaurant on my list. I would never have normally come here but it was on a press trip.

    And actually food was great. But I have not been back. Fine dining in Havana isn’t really my thing.

    But it’s a chic spot that feels like old school Havana with formal service and a large wine list. Apparently Obama ate here…so there’s that!

    112 Oficios, La Habana, Cuba

     

    BONUS: Congrejitos

    This is not a restaurant but I love this spot and think everyone should stop by here.

    Across the street from El Capitolio there is a tiny shop with a long line of Cubans waiting for their warm pastries with guava jam. Congrejitos (pronounced con-grey-hitos) are named for the little crabs they resemble. 

    You can get these everywhere but this is known as the best spot.

    Tell the woman how many you want. I think you can get a dozen for a CUC or so. Make sure you have small change as its sold in CUP but she’ll take CUC.

    They are served warm and they are so good.

    Old Havana Restaurants to Visit Soon:

    • Jibaro’s
    • Jesus Maria 20
    • Fajoma
    • El Chanchullero
    • Lamparilla 361
    • Color Cafe – a new cafe + clothing store 
    • Aguacate 11
    • Nazdarovie Russian restaurant
    • Doña Eutimia
    • Paladar Los Mercaderes
    • Jama Asian fusion, by the same owners at El de Frente and O’Reilly 304
     

    Entrance to Barrio Chino or Chinatown in Havana

    Restaurants in Barrio Chino

    Many people are surprised to see Havana also has a Chinatown. However, many Chinese immigrants came to Cuba in the mid-1800s to work in the sugarcane fields. 

    Yet, after the revolution most left as they knew they would lose their businesses to the new government and they moved to the United States.

    And now there is a small population today including a small run newspaper.

    If you walk by you can just ask to go in and see the old fashioned printing press.

     

    La Juliana

    This is one of my favourite restaurants in Havana for sheer quality of ingredients.

    It looks like an open air burger joint from the outside. Despite not having windows or walls there is air conditioning running full blast, as it’s the only way to get locals inside.

    I don’t know who owns this place but if you know anything about restaurants they have a Rationale oven and full electronic ordering system. How they got it here I have no idea.

    They also seem to have the best vegetables in the city with tomatoes that are actually red (not common).

    Portions here are large and the quality of ingredients is high. I recommend the masa frita, which is like chunks of pork (above).

    Even if you think you’re tired of eating pork you should try this as no Havana restaurant serves it better.

    Ordering at La Juliana can be tricky if you don’t know how to do it. It’s a small spot so you need to know how to form a line. 

    Cubans are THE BEST at waiting in line in Latin America. It’s likely because they spend half their lives waiting in line for one thing or another.

    Even the ATM can require a 10 minute line if you wait to get money until Friday. 

    However, waiting in line in Cuba is quite civilized. There may not be a back of a line, but more of a group of people. 

    Just go and ask “el ultimo?” 

    Who is el ultimo? or the last person. You then become the last. You must remember that person as they may walk away or step aside to talk to friends. Or maybe they go sit at a table. 

    But they are still in line. So you go after them. Cubans do not allow cutting in line. You must go to the end.

    Once you place your order they’ll call your name or a number. If all the tables are taken don’t worry as the table turnover is fast. Just keep an eye out and grab one as soon as you see it.

    210 San Nicolas, La Habana

     

    Sociedad Chang

    The buffet, known as a mesa sueca at Sociedad Chang is popular for birthdays.

    During dinner the sound system blasted a song as lights were turned off for staff to sing Feliz cumpleanos.

    I won’t lead you astray. This isn’t the best Chinese buffet you’ll visit, mostly because few of the dishes are Chinese or even bad Chinese knock offs.

    But it’s a great opportunity to try a lot of different kinds of Cuban cuisine and there’s a good salad option.

    Best bets are the things that look like wontons, but called mariposa chino (Chinese butterfly) along with the sauce that appears to be minestrone but is actually an agridulce sauce that is somewhat like our non-descrip cherry sauce.I also really liked the carne de res.

    For $8 it’s a great option, but beware coffee is a whopping $3.

    517 San Nicolas, La Habana

     
    Pink convertible classic car in Centro Havana, Cuba

    Centro Havana Restaurants

    The Centro neighbourhood is in Central Havana and adjacent to Old Havana.

    And yet as soon as you walk into it you feel like there’s some invisible force that doesn’t allow the touts and hustlers inside.

    It’s very gritty and so some people worry it’s dangerous. But Havana as a city is very safe.

    You don’t have the fresh paint job of touristy Old Havana but you do see Cubans actually living, instead of just working in tourism.

    The most popular paladar in Havana is La Guarida and it is NOT on my list.

    It is famous for being the house from the Cuban movie Fresa y Chocolate and has a great stairwell to take Instagram photos.

    But everyone I trust has said the food is mediocre and very expensive. It’s best to just go get a drink on the rooftop patio, which has a great view of the city.

    If you want the stairwell photo you don’t even need to do either. You can walk in, snap a photo and head somewhere cheaper.

     

    Paladar La Caridad

    This is the restaurant that made me want to come back to Cuba. After two days of mediocre food I thought all Havana restaurants were terrible. 

    We met Cubans and they asked if we wanted to join them for lunch. 

    Food here is really good home cooking with a lot of stews and typical Cuban food.

    There is a full menu board listing with prices CUP but you can pay in either currency. It’s very accessible for tourists.

    Lunch for five with beer: $17 CUC

    117 Calle Aguila, Centro Habana

     

    Nurmi’s Cafe

    Since my friend Giselle took me here the first time I’ve ordered so much take out it’s ridiculous. 

    It’s a small Cuban cafe with just a few high top tables and mostly Cubans, except for a few tourists that wander in looking for water.

    This is home cooking. Prices are ridiculously low. If you spend $4CUC you’re ordering the most expensive menu item.

    I love the garbanzo beans and get them regularly. The Italian higado changed my mind forever about liver – I actually liked it. 

    This is the closest you’ll get to Cuban home cooking unless you get your casa particular to prepare your meals. Everything is made to order so expect to wait 20 minutes for food. 

    Prices are in CUP, but they are happy to take CUC and give CUC change when they can.

    However, if they have to give you a mix of CUC/CUP back they will count it out for you so you know they are getting correct change. 

    160 Neptuno, Centro Habana

     

    Paladar San Cristobal

    Second only to La Guarida, this is the second most popular Havana restaurant. 

    It is very similar in that it is set in a large home but it holds the distinction of hosting the Obama family. 

    I went for lunch in August at the beginning of lunch service. As it was low season no one had arrived yet and the server gave me a tour of where the Obamas sat and memorabilia, including a tea cup Barak drank from that is now under a glass dome!

    There is SO much to look at in this restaurant from religious altars to Russian dolls with Putin and other politicians on it.

    A friend of mine says Ivan Justo helped with the decor, not sure if that’s true but it looks as eclectic as his restaurant in Old Havana.

    I was really surprised at how much I liked the food here. I came with a friend and we split a Cuban appetizers plate that has a little taste of everything and then had fish, which was cooked perfectly.

    That with a beer was a great lunch for $16 CUC.

    At the end they offer a glass of rum as a thank you, and you can get a cigar to finish off the meal.

    San Rafael, Centro Habana

    Centro Havana Restaurants to Visit Soon:

    • Michifu
    • Malecon 663
    • Café Archangel
    • Casa Miglis
     
    Yara theatre in Vedado Havana Cuba

    Best Restaurants in Vedado Havana

    The first year I stayed in Vedado, which is where middle class Cubans live.

    Vedado means forbidden. Havana was once a walled city and Vedado was outside it. But as the city grew and the walls crumbled new neighbourhoods were created.

    Vedado was modelled (loosely) after Miami. It looks completely different from Old Havana as it was has very wide streets and old mansions.

    While Old Havana tends to shut down around midnight you’ll find bars here closing down around dawn.

    You’re more likely to be eating with Cubans in restaurants here. Vedado restaurants are cheaper but have good quality.

    I like the neighbourhood as a whole because I can walk everywhere and no one tries to sell me anything. 

    Although I do recommend Old Havana for the first time visiting Cuba I do think people should at least take a classic car ride out through here,

    Miramar and Playa to see how other Habaneros live as it’s very different to Old Havana.

    The New York Times recommended El Cocinero in Vedado. Since then every writer spending 4 days in the city to write their “ultimate guide” have followed suit…

    I disagree.

    It is part of Fabrica del Art Cubano, also known as FAC. It is a must visit art/community space/club from Thursday to Sunday that is world class. Frequented by both tourists and locals. It is an excellent example of modern Cuba.  

    But the one time I visited El Cocinero the service was so atrocious – even horrible for Cuban standards. I had to get up and walk around to find a server for our bill. 

    Granted I only went once. But I won’t go back to eat duck confit and blinis at international prices.

    Instead I recommend Amigos del Mar around the corner. People I trust have told me it’s the best seafood restaurant in Havana.

     

    Don Bello Cafeteria in Vedado Havana Cuba with salsa chicken

    Don Bello

    This is a typical cafeteria next to the Mercado 17 y K you can’t eat inside but there are some high top tables outside.

    I lived two blocks away and would get take out all the time. 

    Once I brought a pot and just asked them to put 3 portions of black beans in it. Then my friends told me that was weird and not to do it…

    It is typical Cuban food, done really well. They have renovated and improved so prices are higher than they used to be. But in general you get huge portions for $4-6 CUC.

    I have a lot of heart for this place because it was where I went in the beginning to try different Cuban dishes. I basically ordered a different thing each time as it was so affordable and good.

    Even today I’ve had those dishes in other Havana restaurants but Don Bello still has some of the best dishes.

     

    Caribeno restaurant n Havana with criollo food

    El Caribeno

    Apparently this Vedado restaurant has been around since the 1940s. I guess it isn’t surprising as it’s across the street from Hotel Capri, and a block from Hotel Nacional.

    Both the food and drink are cheap, good and there’s a terrace where you can access Cuban wifi – with a card of course. 

    The inside isn’t much so make sure you can get outside seating.

    Two people can easily eat and drink beer for under $10CUC. I’ve been a few times. My ONLY issue is the last time we wanted to go they wouldn’t let us in because we had shorts on. 

    I could see there were plenty of foreigners there…in shorts. They just didn’t want Cubans in shorts.

    It’s BS but it happens quite a bit.

    I think it bothered me more than my friends who are used to it. 

    But we made do. There is a little food cart outside that sells cold beer and cajitas (small brown boxes of food, you rip off the cover to create a makeshift spoon as there’s no cutlery) so we got that and sat on the curb.

    Corner of 21 y N, Vedado

     

    Pizzas 21 y 4

    My friends swear this has some of the best food in Havana – at Cuban prices. Everything here is $1 or $2 CUC. 

    They recommend the spaghetti which comes in a canned sauce topped with cheese and ham. You come for the experience. This place is jammed. 

    The address is literally Calle 21 y 4 in Vedado.

    Tropical restaurant in Havana

    Cafeteria Tropical 12 y 21

    Although I would not go out of my way to eat here. If you are staying in Vedado near 12 and 21 it’s a good spot for cheap, quality food.

    They have outdoor seating which was cool enough for me to convince my friends not to sit inside in the air conditioned dining room.

    They also play sports, so if you’re looking to catch a game start here.

    Again they make it easy, the address is:
    12 y 21, Vedado

    Topoly

    Not only does Iranian restaurant Topoly have great vegan and vegetarian options, but they also have fantastic food all around.

    I’m not an expert in Persian food but visiting Iranians give it rave reviews.

    A paladar in a house in Vedado, it has a beautiful side porch that looks onto the neighbouring park.

    Shisha is available to smoke and they have a number of cultural events

    669 Avenida 23, Vedado

     

    Habana Blues

    This restaurant in Vedado is named after my favourite Cuban movie – which I highly recommend watching before you come.

    It’s a quirky decor that feels a little bit Tuscan and a little bit Cuban eccentric.

    I’m not sure why it’s named after the movie, the actors from the movie may own it.

    Many of the servers are actors and this is a popular spot for actors and visiting Miami Cubans. I didn’t recognize anyone but friends did.

    Although there’s a doorman the vibe is casual. The food here is a bit retro but worth the experience. It’s a good spot to pop in for appetizers and a beer or two.

    Calle H #405 between 17 y 19,  Vedado

     
    Los Amigos Havana restaurant picadillo

    Paladar Los Amigos

    Set back from the road in Vedado, it’s mostly Cubans eating at Los Amigos although I have seen employees out lately trying to bring tourists in.

    Visiting with a group of friends one was vocal about it being expensive with entrees at $10 but I tried picadillo for the first time and it was worth it.

    Cubans love salty food and so many spots will make the food a bit too salty for my liking but Los Amigos was perfect. However, others thought my picadillo needed salt. I disagreed.

    The tamal is also great and served with a spicy condiment, which is rare in Cuba.

    Dinner for six with a few rounds of beer and two appetizers: $100 USD

    Calle M No 253, Vedado

     

    La Paila

    A newer restaurant in Vedado. The dining room is flanked on one end with a large open kitchen and a huge grill.

    I’ve eaten a bunch from the menu and I’ve had lots of its frozen cocktails. It’s always good.
     

    My favourite is the grilled vegetables. It’s only because I get a whole red pepper and while you may take vegetables for granted, getting a red pepper is a special occasion for me!

    It’s just around the corner from Habana Libre in Vedado and is open concept with lots of fans but a roof sheltering you form the sun.

    Corner of M y 25, Vedado

    Vedado Restaurants to Visit Soon:

    • El Idilio
    • Cafe Laurent
     

    Restaurants in Miramar

    I’ve just started to explore Miramar as its farther outside the city centre, which is more difficult to get to.

    But after two years I’m craving more tranquil spots and Miramar has great options.

    Prior to the revolution it was home to the wealthiest families in Cuba. Although many of the mansions were split into smaller homes after the revolution, it remains an upscale neighbourhood.

    Perhaps one of the most famous restaurants in Miramar is one of its oldest. El Aljibe has been visited by Hollywood stars and former presidents.

    It’s also one of the most famous Havana restaurants and known for its roast chicken recipe, which is over 60 years old.

    Yet, I cannot recommend it. 

    I know people who went years ago and loved it. But the famous chicken was only ok.

    I couldn’t recommend anyone driving to go out to this place. I wouldn’t go back.

    There are better Havana restaurants to visit.

     

    La Fontana

    One of the more upscale places to eat in Havana Cuba, this Miramar restaurant is in a former home.

    The main dining area is in a covered garden-like area and is really lovely during the day.

    Just to the side of the dining room they have a cook grilling food to order. I ordered lobster and wasn’t confident in my order as I thought it would be overcooked.

    But I was wrong. It was perfect.

    3ra A ave. & 46 # 305, Miramar

     

    Pizzeria El Bosque 

    Normally I would not share where to eat pizza anywhere outside Italy, Buenos Aires, Chicago or New York. But Cubans LOVE pizza.

    Although there are plenty of cheap options for slices on the street for $1-3 one of the most popular places for locals is in the bosque.

    Literally meaning forest, it’s an incredible green area in the western part of the city. I highly recommend you visit if you do a classic car tour (this is a great one where you can customize the itinerary.

    This Havana restaurant often has a line out the door. Pizza is THE thing to get here but cannelloni and lasagna is also possible.

    Unless you really like the flavour of tuna I’d pass on this fishy option. Jamon visky is very good as well the Pizza Especial de Bosque allow you four quadrants to try four flavours.

    It’s a 12 inch pizza, I think it’s enough for two people although everyone got their own. Or get your own and then take a long walk through the beautiful forest.

    Pro tip: the bathroom doesn’t have a lock on it. So if the door is closed there is someone in it. I found out the hard way.

    Avenida Zoologico 42 y Avenida Del Bosque

    Miramar Restaurants to Visit Soon:

    • Toca Madera
    • Amigos del Mar- many say is the best seafood restaurant at reasonable prices
    • Otramanera
    • Beijing a new Chinese restaurant that says its authentic Chinese
     
    Jaimanitas part of the Playa neighbourhood

    Best Restaurants in Playa

    Playa is FAR for me and so I don’t know much of it but it has upscale restaurants where you’ll find wealthy Cubans so I find it fascinating.

    Marea restaurant in the Hemingway Marina in Havana.

    Marea

    After visiting Fusterlandia, one of my favourite places in Havana I was planning to go to Santy’s Pescador seafood restaurant. It is also located in the Jaimanitas section of Miramar.

    However, a friend of mine said that it had become a tourist trap and for the same price we could go to Marea in the Hemingway Marina.

    He was right. Prices for dishes were similar.

    Located just on the Marina you get a great view of the water and on Sundays it gets busy with wealthy Cubans. 

    Prices are equal to what you would pay in the United States. Cristal beer is 3CUC, appetizers are $7-12 and main dishes $10-20. Food is okay, the view is better.

    Although I’ve only visited once I’d go back for a Sunday splurge and get the couches that look directly on the water and a bucket of beer.

    25804 Avenida 5ta, Miramar

    So far I have one Playa restaurant I’d like to check out:

    • Paladar Vistamar
    • La Corte del Principe
    • Cafe Bahia lunch spot with great fish
    • Santy’s Pescador because SO many people go
     

    BONUS: My Favourite Restaurant Just Outside Havana

    Ranchon El Pellizco

    One of my favourite restaurants is just outside the city. It is an open air spot with incredible food at fantastic prices.

    There is a taro root dish cooked in pork fat and topped with chicharron bits that is one of my absolute favourite things in Cuba.

    While it’s a large restaurant there’s often a long line. But they’ll take your name and call you when your table is ready.

    If you want to take your food to go they’ll oblige with plastic bags to dump your food into.

    It seems weird but hey when you get home and you have more pork fat taro root you’re just happy to have it.

    Direccion KM 19 Guanabacoa

     

    Map of Where to Eat in Havana

     

    Pin it For Later: Restaurants in Havana Cuba

    Garbanzo frito with rice and cabbage, a typical Cuban food served at restaurants in Havana
     

    Join the Conversation

    1. small correction – was great having your blog while in havana last week, and we found that la carina is actually la carida, and is on aquina, not tocadero. thanks!

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Saf thank you SO much for taking the time to share this. I’m going to make the change now!

    2. One of my fav spots I take my yuma groups is La Catedral in Vedado. Best Ropa Vieja, Lasagna, steak (believe it or not). Great atmosphere! Took my mexican parents for their 50th Anniversary and to their surprise there was a Mariachi (clearly cuban not mexican and missing some outfit embelishments) but we had a blast singing with mariachi! Can’t say enough about it. Located at calle 8 e/calzada y 5ta. YOU’RE WELCOME! ?

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Another friend told me it had a great happy hour – okay I’m convinced I’m going!

    3. Vytas @ Places Happen says:

      Thanks for sharing the list! I think a lot of those places were not around when we went to Cuba last time. However the info will surely be handy next time we go, and we definitely will 🙂

    4. Gregory Holt says:

      it was good to see your comments on restaurants in Havana as I have enjoyed several of them
      in the 24 years I have been going to Havana .
      My favorites are CABANA in La Habana Vieja, which has the best ropa Vieja , Havana Blues
      where I took 2 of my Cuban friends and enjoyed a wonderful meal which included wine, main course, dessert and coffee for for 36CUC! As well we dined at La Catedral also great food,
      and a wonderful discovery was Le Chansonnier , a converted mansion featuring individual rooms and fantastic food. Lastly, my other favourite was the Cafe Florentina at theEl Capri
      Hotel where the food was nicely prepared and presented along with a fantastic view of Havana looking towards the Malecon on one side and the city of Havana on the other. Great view at night as well.

    5. Brendan Gilroy says:

      Hi,

      I am curious about people out on the street in the major cities of Cuba. Your tipping section was very helpful this way, but I wanted to ask explicitly because I didn’t see information in the article: How many people are there in the major cities of Cuba who are on the street asking for money but don’t have toilet paper to give, songs to sing etc?

      I lived in NYC for 7 years up until Feb 2020, I’ve been to Paris, Milan, Tegucigalpa + Comayagua in Honduras, Arequipa, Cusco, Puno in Peru. That’s kind of my baseline for strangers who want money. If you know the difference between people who would ask tourists for money vs people who would also ask locals for money in Cuban cities like Cienfuego or bigger that would be even better.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Cuba is very different than other countries in Latin America. The incidence of this happening is much much lower in Cuba.

        That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. But flat out asking is not common. The most touristy neighbourhood, Old Havana, is the only place where someone has asked me for money and it’s always been a bit of a scam. Three times three different people asked me for money to buy milk for their baby. But milk is provided as part of the ration system and prioritized for children. In general what happens is they’ll ask you for money or ask you to buy it, the store keeper sells it to you at an outrageous price. Then you give it to the person and they take it back to the store and take the money.

        I’ve been with my Cuban friends and a child may approach for money or an elderly man may ask for a cigarette. They always give but that is the culture to take care of each other. Although I’ve never seen either children or older people ask tourists.

        More often kids will ask for candy because tourists come with pockets of it and give to random children in the street, which I think is disgraceful. You would never just randomly hand out candy to children in other countries.

        In my apartment building there’s a kid who sees me all the time and sometimes talks to me. One day he asked me for a dollar and I scolded him and asked why? He had done nothing to earn the money.

        I think as tourists we need to be careful with how we treat children. Helping them understand that they can earn and work for money rather than waiting for hand outs.

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