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Havana Restaurants

From local dishes to modern international cuisine, the dining scene is varied and interesting
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Havana—The Insider's Guide, November/December 2011

(continued from page 1)

La Fontana
Calle 46, esquina Av. 3
Miramar
Tel: (537) 202-8337

A celebrated and venerable paladar in Miramar that is very popular with the local expatriot crowd, this is a vibrant restaurant with several levels and an enclosed dining room, in addition to a covered terrace. There is often live music in the evenings. The food is above average for Havana. We had a delicious appetizer with three kinds of chorizo, or sausage. Grilled octopus, grilled chicken and a penne with seafood were all excellent. I ordered an arroz con pollo that came in a large earthenware bowl, and was full-flavored with peppers and onions. After dinner, head to the downstairs bar, a low-ceilinged affair with two of the most attractive bartenders in all of Havana.

Castropol
Malecón No. 107, entre Genios y Crespo
Centro Habana
Tel: (537) 861-4864

Just look for the bright yellow building on the Malecón, a few blocks east of the Prado. Book a table on the terrace, and take in the sweeping view from the Malecón from one end to the other. Another place to stick to the basic items. A garlic shrimp dish served in a casserole was delicious, with the seafood fresh and sweet. Both the lobster and the chicken were a little overcooked. But nothing will detract from the view.

Atelier
Calle 5ta, No. 511, entre 2 y Paseo
Vedado
Tel: (527) 836-2025

This rooftop restaurant, which opened in early 2011, is within view of the Meliá Cohiba. The outdoor terrace has big comfortable couches where you can take a cocktail before dinner. I would recommend eating indoors if it is windy; the dining room is almost Moorish in its décor. The warm octopus salad with onions was excellent, as was the fresh lobster. The swordfish was a bit tough, but that may have just been due to the quality of the day’s catch. Others have recommended the duck and the rabbit, so be a little adventuresome, which is what chef Nuria Higuera aims to be with her culinary offerings.

El Chelo, Club Habana
Av. 5, entre 188 y 192
Miramar, Playa
Tel: (537) 204-5700

This is a bit of a change from the normal restaurant in Havana. It’s setting, out on the ocean in Miramar offers a great view. The buildings were once part of the Biltmore Yacht Club in the heyday before the revolution, and it retains much of its former charm. The restaurant has tables on a covered patio just steps from the pool, and you can walk out to the ocean on a sandy beach. The food is standard, but good, and it has some unusual bottles of wine on the list, including a Chilean Cabernet, Don Melchor (180 cuc), and several vintages of Vega Sicilia Unico (400 cuc). Seafood, especially the shrimp, is a good bet here.

Vistamar
Av. 1, entre 22 y 24
Miramar
Tel: (537) 203-8328

This paladar restaurant, in an old seaside home, is a reminder of the pre-revolutionary heyday. The second-floor dining room overlooks an infinity-edged swimming pool that looks out over the Caribbean Sea. This is a seafood palace, and has the best lobster I have eaten in Havana. Shrimp and grilled fish are also excellent here. A wonderful place to have a quiet lunch. Stick to the beer.

Other Recommendations

 

El Templete
Av. Carlos Manuel Céspedes
(Av. del Puerto)
La Habana Vieja
Tel: (537) 204-0624

This is one of the most popular, and considered among the best, government-run restaurants in Havana. It is known for its seafood. It’s very close to the Hotel Santa Isabel and the Plaza San Francisco, down at the port of Havana. An appetizer of fried calamari was lightly breaded and delicious. The main courses of red snapper and dorado were both perfectly grilled.

La Imprenta
Calle Mercaderes 208, entre Amargura
y Lamparilla
La Habana Vieja
Tel: (537) 864-9581

An impressive two-story atrium of an old printing plant houses one of the newer government eating establishments in Habana Vieja. Delicious seafood in a unique setting. It’s centrally located on Mercaderes, one of the most completely renovated areas of Habana Vieja.

Café del Oriente

Oficios No. 112, esquina Amargura
La Habana Vieja
Tel: (537) 860-6686

A beautiful restaurant with a large and elegant bar. One of the early renovated spaces in Habana Vieja, it sits right across the street from the Marques de San Felipe hotel. The food is pretty standard, but just walking in to sit at the bar takes one back to an early twentieth century bar in New York or London. International cuisine.

Places to Try

La Campana
Calle 212, No. 2904, entre 29 y 31
La Lisa, Habana
Tel: (537) 271-1073

One of the hot new places among the expat crowd in Havana. We did not eat here, but it’s getting rave reviews.

El Palenque
Calle 17 y 190
Siboney, Playa
Tel: (537) 271-8167

In the style of El Aljibe, but with a focus on roast or grilled pork. We didn’t eat here because it suffered a fire in February, but the reports were that it was up and operating again. Very rustic and simple, but the roasted pork is said to be uniformly good.

Two other restaurants have come to our attention and may be worth visiting: San Cristóbal in Centro Habana and D12 in Vedado. Ask your concierge for directions.

For Cocktails & Music

Bodeguita del Medio
Calle Empedrado No. 207
Habana Vieja
Tel: (537) 867-1374

One of the world’s great bars. They do have a full kitchen, but it’s not a place anyone ever recommends for the food. This is a place of mojitos and cigars. In fact, one of the main bartenders, Pedro E. Tejeda Torres doesn’t make daiquiris, only mojitos. There is almost always a small, three-piece acoustic band playing with a singer crooning the old Cuban standards. It’s a great place to hang out for awhile, drinking away the afternoon. Papa Hemingway apparently knew the score. By this fall, there will be a cigar lounge up on the second floor with a small balcony.

El Floridita
Obispo, No. 557, esquina Monserrate
Habana Vieja
Tel: (537) 867-1300

Not a bad choice to eat, but we prefer other restaurants. This is a place to come for frozen daiquiris. They are delicious and the room is a wonderful example of art deco décor. Great long bar, and there’s usually music.

Café de Paris
Obispo y San Ignacio
Habana Vieja
Tel: N/A

Definitely not a dining spot. But the music is often outstanding. I heard a great Cuban band, Son de Cuba, one night, and their sounds drifted through the streets in Old Havana.

La Torre
Calle 17, esquina M, Edificio FOSCA
Vedado
Tel: (537) 838-3088

A sunset spot. On the 33rd floor of the FOSCA apartment complex, this top-of-the-world bar on the 33rd floor provides magnificent views of the ocean, of Havana and the sunsets. Usually not recommended as a dining spot, but you might find it hard to leave.

The Insider's Guide to Havana


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Comments   1 comment(s)

Kevin Shah — Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia,  —  February 21, 2012 11:48pm ET

I've been to La Guarida, and totally agree with the entire first paragraph!


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