Privately-owned restaurants, or paladares, were prohibited in Cuba for many decades, following the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. In 2010, Raul Castro’s economic reforms allowed for Cubans to open private restaurants and the dining scene in Havana has flourished as a result. Havana offers a wide range of dining options as diverse as the citizens that comprise this Caribbean paradise. From family run businesses to palatial state run luxury spots, you will have a range of choices to choose from, depending on your budget and cravings.
Not just rice and beans, Cuban food is a mix of traditional Taino food, with Caribbean, African and Spanish influences, and so it is diverse and interesting. So when in Havana, come with a healthy appetite and enjoy some of the best dining options in the city.
1. Paladar Doña Eutimia
Doña Eutimia earned its name from a woman that lived near the restaurant’s current location, who would cook for Taller Experimental de Grafica artists, such as Fabelo, Choco, and Nelson Domínguez. Artists from the gallery, which is located next door to the restaurant, opened Doña Eutimia in 2012, as a tribute to the famed cook. The fare offered at Doña Eutimia is typical Cuban fare, with chicken, pork and fish dominating the menu, in a variety of preparations.
Doña Eutimia is often considered to be the best restaurant in Havana, for its authentic Cuban food and it is relatively inexpensive, with most dishes costing between 10-15 CUC (10-15 USD). The restaurant is tucked away in a corner off the Plaza de la Catedral, in Old Havana, and it is well worth the trip.
Paladar Doña Eutimia
Address: Callejon del Chorro # 60-C Plaza de la Catedral, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba
Facebook: Paladar Doña Eutimia
2. Le Chansonnier
Le Chansonnier is a traditional Parisian restaurant, in the heart of Havana. It is notoriously difficult to find and there are no outside signs to guide visitors, so be sure to copy the address carefully when heading to the restaurant. Hidden in an elegant dining room, in a faded mansion-turned-paladar, Le Chansonnier serves French wine and is decorated with French furniture.
House specialties include rabbit in red wine sauce, chicken smothered in mushrooms, Dijon pork chops, and gigantic salads. A range of amazing desserts are also on the menu, including cold lemon souffle, fruit strudel and flan. The restaurant also caters to special events and business dinners and has a VIP area. Le Chansonnier can get very crowded, so call in advance to make reservations.
Address: Calle J No. 257 e/15 y Linea, Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Facebook: Le Chansonnier
3. La Barraca
La Barraca is located inside the grounds of Cuba’s landmark hotel, the Hotel Nacional. The hotel offers magnificent views of El Malecon, Havana’s famed waterfront boulevard, and out to sea. Set in lovely gardens, under a traditional thatched roof, La Barraca serves traditional Cuban criollo fare with rice, beans, chicken, and pork, dominating the menu. A typical plate at La Barraca will cost between 10-20 CUC (10-20 USD) and there is often live music to go along with your meal. Another highlight of this restaurant is their all you can eat Creole special, that includes rice, beans, salad, chicken and pork for 8.95 CUC (8.95 USD), which is a great way to experience Cuban staples.
Address: Calle Obispo Esquina A S/N, La Habana 10100, Cuba
Website: La Barraca
4. San Cristóbal Paladar
San Cristóbal Paladar occupies the ground floor of a still-occupied mansion, in Central Havana. Decorated with piles of old books, beautiful old furniture, unique black and white photos and vintage bullfighting posters, the restaurant is steeped in old colonial charm. China elephants share the front room with a model Red Indian and a shrine to the Black Virgin Mary. San Cristóbal Paladar serves traditional Cuban fare and costs about 10 CUC (10 USD) per meal.
Highlights of the menu include their Malecon salad, which has octopus, lobster, shrimp, fine herbs, dill, olive oil and sherry vinegar or the Cuban lamb stew. Make a reservation in advance, as the restaurant often fills up very fast.
San Cristóbal Paladar
Address: San Rafael No 469, E/ Lealtad y Campanario, Havana, Cuba
Website: San Cristóbal Paladar
5. Café del Oriente
Café del Oriente is one of the most luxurious restaurants in Old Havana. It has two rooms and a bar/cafe on the ground floor and a spectacular restaurant on the upper floor. It is a state-run operation and located in the Plaza de San Francisco de Asís. Men wearing tuxedos serve your meals and they often have live music in a traditional Cuban style, which adds to the overall atmosphere of the restaurant.
Some of the items on the menu at Café del Oriente include filet mignon, smoked salmon, caviar, goose liver pâté, steak au poivre, and lobster thermidor. Other highlights include chicken stuffed with pineapple, steak tartar or tenderloin confit, with spiced olive oil and rum cream. For dessert, flaming crepes can be served at your table. A standard meal will cost you 30-50 CUC (30-50 USD) so it is among the most expensive dining options, in Havana.
Café del Oriente
Address: 112 Oficios, La Habana, Cuba
Website: Café del Oriente
Have your fill in Havana
If you are traveling to Havana, Cuba, anytime soon, look no further than these amazing restaurants to get a real taste of this island paradise. Some of the best of the best of what Cuba has to offer are on this list and you won’t regret any of these choices for a second. Cuba is a diverse mixture of Latin, African and Caribbean culture and this is reflected in the wonderful variety of dishes you will find at these spectacular establishments.
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