Robaina's plantation

Wednesday 20 May 2015

My Favourite Havana Restaurants (Havana) Cuba

                    Hello everyone, as my readers know, I'm a frequent traveler to Cuba who enjoys eating in restaurants with my home base being Havana. Since the changes to the Cuban law has made it permissible to start-up a wide variety of businesses, the restaurant scene has flourished. Over the last several years there has been a culinary explosion on the island and nowhere is this more evident and eclectic than in it's Capitol City, Havana. There have been all kinds wide-ranging styles and cuisines opening up on what seems a daily basis. Every time I take a trip to Havana, there's a whole new batch of restaurants (or Paladars) opened up and several that have shut down. Being in the restaurant business myself, I'm always checking out new places where I might enjoy something to eat and smoke my cigars. However, there will always be favourites that have always been (in my opinion) better or more consistent than the rest. If you travel to Havana as much as I do I'm sure you have your favourites and may dispute mine but there are so many places to choose from and I may simply not have been to your favourite yet or not found it to be to my liking....everyone's tastes are different. Below I have listed my favourite spots in no particular order.

Cafe Laurent
Calle M  e/19 y 21 no.257 Penthouse
Vedado, La Habana
Tel.(537) 831-2090   832-6890

                     I said I wasn't posting these in any particular order but I have to say that so far, this has got to be our favourite restaurant in Havana. Great location...the penthouse apartment of a highrise building near the Hotel Nacional in the Vedado district. It has excellent views of this part of the city, I'm always greeted by my first name (no matter how long I'm absent), the service is always pleasant even if sometimes it hasn't been the most professional and food is consistently good with a nice variety of menu items that change from time to time. I have been coming here since it has opened several years ago, they haven't wavered from good quality and service and that's why we continue to come here. It's not the cheapest place to have a meal in Havana and some might even say it's expensive but consistency is a beautiful thing and the same meal here, in a comparable place in Toronto (where I'm from) would cost at least double in price (excluding the cost to get there and parking in Toronto). I can't tell you what to have because I haven't seen a menu in over 6 months but I can tell you that anything you try will be of good quality. Their wine list never had the greatest of selections but I've always been able to pick out a wine that I liked and it's reasonably priced. If you tell the manager I (Matteo from Canada) sent you, maybe you'll get special attention. I would like to think you don't need any help to get a good meal from this restaurant. A must try....with wine, $60-80 for two people.

The Patio

Calle Malecón 107

                   This restaurant has been open several years and I've been going since around that time. Again, this is a restaurant that we frequent often but don't have the same relationship with as we do with Cafe Laurent. No matter, excellent service just the same. This place is split into 2 sections with two different menus. You have the lower section which is all about the grill....and the mixed grilled meat is the meal to have down here....and you have the 2nd floor which has a more international menu and the patio overlooking the Malecon and Havana harbour. The food here has always been consistently good except for the odd item that I may not have liked (Cordon mistake). Recently I went with a couple of people who ordered something upstairs that I never do, the Lobster. They didn't like it and I have to agree, it tasted old and dry, I wouldn't recommend ordering that. The Paellas have always been good upstairs, especially the Crab one whenever it's available. Upstairs is a little more expensive than downstairs, probably the same as Cafe Laurent but the view of the ocean is well worth it. Downstairs is ridiculously cheap by my standards...mixed meat platter for 2 & appetizers with wine will be less than $50. I recommend a visit to this restaurant but can't tell you which section to eat it. We don't go by menu, we go where we feel to eat at that moment. That is to say that if it's a nice day, we like to sit outside and therefore sit on the patio upstairs. If it's an ugly day, we sit downstairs. If there's something (like ribs) that we like on the menu downstairs, they always make it for us upstairs and therefore we get the best of both worlds.

Downstairs Section

Ribs on the Downstairs Menu

Lobster Tail on the Upstairs Menu

Paella on the Upstairs Menu

El Templete
Avenida del Puerto #12-14 esq/ Narciso Lopez
Habana Vieja behind Plaza de Armas
Phone  7 866 8807

                   Here's another restaurant that we've been visiting for years. It's sits in a wonderful location at the end of the Malecon, right across from Havana Bay. When your done your meal, lunch or dinner, you take a walk through Old Havana since Plaza de Armas sits right behind the restaurant. It isn't the snazziest looking restaurant in Havana (especially with all the new upstarts) but as it should, being right on the water, it has the best selection of seafood in the city. My favourite meal here is either the Tuna or Marlin. I have it cooked at the chef's preference, medium to medium rare, and I'm rarely disappointed if I don't veer off my usual path. They also have a nice selection of appetizers, my girlfriend loving the hummus and I the Beef Carpaccio. It too isn't the cheapest place, at about the same amount as Cafe Laurent $60-80 with wine for two. However, if you think about it, I don't order cheap food and I try not to pay much more that $20 for a bottle of wine (that would cost $40-50 in my restaurant back home). Great place for a nice romantic dinner.

The Patio



The most expensive dish on the menu....The Fish Platter

La Carbonsita
Calle 3 entre 38 y 40
Playa, Miramar, Havana
tel. (05)290-4984

                  This is by far the best Italian restaurant that I've been to in Cuba. If another one exists, I haven't been there and I wish any readers that know otherwise to please post a comment about the place. Walter, the owner, is an Italian who married a Cuban and eventually opened what in my opinion is as close to authentic Italian as you can get on the island. Heck, even the pope here, if that's not a recommendation I don't know what is. I don't know how he gets the stuff in but he has a good array of products from Italy. The last time I was there he even had fresh ricotta and he grows his own basil on the roof of his house, which is the restaurant. He makes his own fresh noodles and what isn't homemade is Barilla or De Cecco from Italy....and unless otherwise stated ahead of time, the pasta is always cooked 'al dente'. It's a very busy place that requires a reservation unless you don't mind waiting. Lunch is a easier to find a table without a reservation. Walter and I know each other onn a first name basis and he always takes very good care of me. You can tell him I say hello.

Walter the Owner and Chef

La Terraza
Prado no.309 esq. Virtudes
La Habana Vieja
Tel. (535) 817-8778

                     Here's a place that opened a number of years ago. We went from time to time but it hasn't been until the last couple of years that we've been coming here on a regular basis. We love the ribs here and although they're sold as an appetizer, we make a meal out of them. We sit on the Patio overlooking Prado with excellent views of the city. The idea here is the Open Grill that's right on the patio, that's where they cook a lot of their food.  Another thing I love here is the Leg of Lamb but be prepared to eat nothing else because it's not only tasty, it's massive. They have an indoor as well but we've never sat there. Prices are reasonable, under $60 for 2 people with a bottle of wine. Great location near the Capitolio and Parque Central.

The restaurant is on the top floor....The blue awning 

View from the patio looking towards Parque Central

Our Favourite....The Ribs

San Cristobal
San Rafael no. 469 e/ Lealtad y Campanario
Centro Habana, Havana
tel. (7)867-9109 or (7)860-1705

                    This restaurant is the latest addition to this list. We only discovered it less than two years ago but we love it. You've heard of the expression 'Don't judge a book by it's cover', it applies to this restaurant. If you were to judge this restaurant by the neighbourhood it's located in and what's around the entrance, you wouldn't think very much of it. I've only been here twice but they already know my name. The service is excellent, the food delicious and the prices very reasonable. Dinner for 2 could easily be under $50 with wine. The decor is something out of a museum with relics of a bygone era hanging on the walls or sitting on antique furniture. This is one of the restaurants where Beyonce and Jay-Z ate when they were in town. I think that's telling you something. Tell the gang I say hello....the guy with the Blog from Canada.

Appetizer Platter for 2

Shrimp Cocktail

Eggplant Parmigiana

Honorable Mention
There are so many good restaurants in Havana at this time. I'm sure I've missed a couple of someone else's favourite but I still have many more spots to visit. Below are several that are also worth a visit in my opinion.

Cerveceria Antiguo Almacen de la Madera y El Tabaco
Ave Puerto y San Pedro, La Habana
tel. (7)8647780

Right on the water, next to the Tourist Market. Nice appetizers, we like the ribs. They make their own beer right on the property.

Restaurant Bar Razones
Calle F no.63 e/3ra y 5ta
Vedado, Havana
tel. (53 7) 8328732
cell (53 5) 2366080

Hasn't been open a year, great food at really cheap prices. I almost don't want to tell you about it so it doesn't become overcrowded, it's hard enough getting a table without a reservation as it is. We've only been here once but love it.

Dona Eutimia
Callejon del Chorro # 60-C
Plaza de la Catedral, Habana Vieja
Phone: (7) 861 1332

There has been a lot of talk about this place and I have to say it's one of the most professional establishments that I have visited. We've only been here once but we will be back for sure.

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