By Terri Paajanen
This Cuba restaurant guide can give you an introduction to eating out in Cuba.
Because of the busy tourist trade, you’ll find that many restaurants in Cuba have a varied menu and offer a mix of “international” cuisine. I would recommend trying at least one meal of real traditional Cuban cuisine while you are there.
Many dishes are made with rice and beans, and many meals don’t include meat because it can be scarce. The flavors found in Cuban recipes include onions, garlic, cumin, lime and bay. Overall, the food is unique to Cuba but you can see many similarities with Spanish or Mexican cuisine.
Cost of a Meal
Restaurants in Cuba often cater to the tourist crowd and the prices can reflect that, especially restaurants at or near large resorts. So the cost for a meal can vary widely. A fairly inexpensive meal (usually Cuban food) might cost you around 20 CUC (convertible pesos) for 2 people. That is roughly the same as $20 USD. Bodegon Criollo falls into this category, with Los Nardos being a bit more expensive (closer to 30 CUC for 2). At the other end of the spectrum would be a place like La Guarida, where a meal for 2 will cost around 75 CUC.
Service and Quality
This can vary widely, so keep your expectations open. Many restaurants may be shabby by North American or European standards, but that doesn’t always reflect on the quality of the food. In other words, don’t judge a restaurant just by its looks. Service is like in any country, with some places being better than others. You might get great service one night, and poor service at the same place a few days later.
When reading about Cuban restaurants, you might see some referred to as “paladars”. A paladar is just a family-run restaurant that is not directly controlled by the government. These small eateries are one of the few businesses that are allowed to remain private, and they have become very popular with tourists who want something different (and cheaper) than the larger state-run restaurants in the hotels or resorts.
The paladars are required to stay small (technically, no more than 12 tables), serve local foods and are usually highly taxed. This usually means that their only means of affordable advertising is word-of-mouth. So don’t be surprised if many of these places aren’t found in regular guidebooks. You may even be approached by someone on the street, telling you about the place. It’s fairly common and shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the restaurant is suspicious.
Cuba Restaurant Guide
There is no way I can list all the Cuba restaurants, but I have a list of the most popular ones. Or you can find restaurants in Cuba that serve more than just Cuban dishes. If you are just staying in Havana, then you can see which Havana restaurants you should plan on visiting.
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