Oases in a Food Desert
Havana is far from a great restaurant town, but culinary triumphs exist, at both state-run and private restaurants (known as paladares).
(Calle Concordia, No. 418; 863-7351)
Made famous by its cameo in the Oscar-nominated Fresa y Chocolate, La Guarida is considered by many to be Cuba’s best restaurant. The crumbling Centro Habana building where it’s housed adds to the cachet; reserve in advance.
(Calle 72, No. 1705; 202-1531)
The Italian chef at this intimate converted garage cranks out Havana’s best handmade pastas and wood-fired, thin-crust pizzas.
(Avenida 49, No. 3401; 203-7232)
Opened in May, the “White House” spins classic Cuban dishes like octopus in olive oil or charcoal-grilled pork loin into gourmet feasts.
(Calle 12, No. 508, Vedado; 836-9301)
Chef Vladimir, who cut his teeth at some of the city’s finest restaurants, finally opened his own spot in April.
Café del Oriente
(Calle Oficios, No. 112; 860-6686)
The upscale eatery anchoring Plaza de San Francisco de Asis features tuxedoed wait staff, crisp tablecloths, and a killer steak au poivre.
(Calle M, corner of Calle 17, 36th fl.; 838-3088)
Stunning city and sea views make this one of Havana’s most romantic spots; grab sunset cocktails at the bar, and don’t miss the profiteroles for dessert.
(Avenida 5, No. 18207; 273-6555)
Prime cuts, professional service (not a given in Havana), and a grand mansion setting. Treat some Cubans to the all-you-can-eat mixed grill in the garden and make fast friends.
(Avenida del Puerto, Nos. 12–14; 866-8807)
A favorite among Havana’s famous and well-to-do; sate your seafood craving with grilled hake in clam sauce or squid cooked in its ink.
ˇViva el Socialismo!
Myriad are the ways to eat, drink, and dance away a dollar (or less) in government-subsidized Havana.
Classic Cuban lunch with pork chop, rice, beans, and salad at El Ranchón (Calles Tulipán and Marino).
16-oz. beer on tap in the garden patio at Parrilla El Matador (Calle 26 bet. 5ta and 7ta, Miramar).
Five scoops of ice cream at Coppelia (Calles L and 23).
Cost: 25 cents.
Shared taxi ride in a ’55 Buick.
Cost: 40 cents by day, 80 cents by night.
Souvenir three-peso Che coins and bills. from currency-exchange bureaus citywide.
Cost: $1 for eight.
Jam session with Son Cubano maestro Pancho Amat at the Museo de la Música (third Thursday of the month; Calle Obrapía No. 509).