Food, or more so, the art of eating is truly a way of life in Cuba. As times have been tough in the past, and continue to be for many in the present, food represents life, social gathering and a time to unwind.
Havana for so long was a place where only government-owned restaurants could be found scattered throughout the city. Even though these places still exist, they are quickly being outnumbered by the ever-growing restaurants and “paladars” that local families are opening, creating a wide variety of new dining experiences each and every time we visit. Here are just a few local hot spots that we have come to enjoy…
“Las Tejas” is one of our favorites. It’s a small “paladar,” family owned food restaurant, right off the Autopista Nacional (the main Highway) between the 50 and 51 KM mark arriving or leaving Havana. It’s a great spot for a quick and inexpensive snack or a sit down lunch. For about $2 we bought 4 small tender pork sandwiches, and fresh pineapple juice. Add in their home-made flan for another 50 cents and you have a little slice of heaven. A truly delicious meal that hits the spot!
In Havana, near the Old Vedado Theater District, is an emerging arts area which has another great local paladar, “Plan B”, that serves up some larger and more meaty “lechon”, or pork sandwiches, and some seriously amazing smoothies. These sandwiches are so big that we could barely finish them! They are the epitome of the classic Cuban sandwich with the right amount of fresh pork, pickles, cheese and wonderfully textured bread.
Just down the adjacent street from Plan B, you can visit some wonderful local art galleries and small hand-made shops. If you don’t stop and explore this area, you will definitely miss these small gems of the city.
“Porto-Habana”, a more up scale dining venue, is also in the Vedado area, and another one of our favorite dining retreats. Here you can have a Cuban gourmet meal with beautiful ocean views as you watch the sun set over the city. Their unique cocktails and refreshing house made sangria use seasonal fresh fruits, and we found it quite easy to finish up a pitcher or two. Don’t miss their superbly rich Lamb Stew, it’s a “braised lamb, sautéed with natural spices, flamed with rum, perfumed with red wine and flavored with creole sauce and a dash of tabasco.” Finish off your meal with some of the flan, our ultimate favorite Cuban desert, and you are ready for a food coma.
Remember, there are many, many more places just like these all over Habana, and outside the City as well, that are just waiting to satisfy the most curious traveller and indulge in the most fickle foodies taste buds…