Eating is a big part of traveling. In Cuba, the cuisine is a blend of Spanish, African, and other Caribbean cuisines. Cuban food is typically very meat-centric. However, there is also a focus on tropical fruits like plantains and guava. If you’re heading to Cuba, here’s a list of some of our favorite restaurants:
O’Reilly 304 (Spanish/ Caribbean)
O’Reilly #304, Habana Vieja
Thinking up the name (the restaurant’s address) can’t have taken much imagination, but this place serves up some of the most imaginative cuisine in Havana. Exquisite seafood with crispy vegetables is presented on metal pans set into wooden trays, while the cocktails and tacos are fast becoming legendary. Seafood here is fantastic and fresh, and its ceviche is the holy grail here, voted as the best ceviche restaurant in Havana. Also, don’t miss the watermelon or passion fruit mojitos that pack a punch! The simple restaurant is probably the trendiest and hippest eatery in Cuba.
Dona Eutimia (Cuban/ Creole)
Callejón del Chorro No. 60C, Plaza de la Catedral
This paladar is located opposite an artist’s workshop within a few meters of the large state restaurant, El Patio, on Cathedral Square. The place is small, old, personal, an intimate place where you can relax. The bar area has a modern coffee shop lounge feel (think Friends) with comfortable sofas, bright cushions and good music (modern lounge). The owner, Leticia, has developed a very traditional Cuban menu based on memories of her mother’s dishes. She does not like to invent new dishes or to mix with a modern touch. So look for tamal, ropa vieja (shredded beef), pork, rice and beans cooked with original flavors. Don’t underestimate how good these dishes can be.
Santy Pescador (Raw Bar)
Calle 240A #3023 esq. 3raC, Jaimanitas
If Cuba has one world-class restaurant this is it. This is the one place that you could transplant anywhere in the world and it would hold its own. Santy’s is a sushi restaurant located in Jaimanitas on the Western outskirts of Havana just shy of Marina Hemingway. It is located on a clapboard single story wooden house next to, in fact, right on one of the outlets to the sea. The large outdoor terrace seats about 40 people. The service is efficient and the food is simply spectacular. This seems a world away for the hustle of Havana, the feng-shui of the water and the boats ambling out to sea to take you away, into another place.
Ivan Chef Justo (Spanish/ Mediterranean)
Aguacate #9, esq. Chacón, Habana Vieja (frente al Museo de la Revolucion)
The place can be a bit tricky to find. It is located opposite the Museum of the Revolution on the Old Havana side. The style of the place is thoroughly Mediterranean, located on the second and third floor of a building that must be 200 years old and the place has a comfortable, airy feel to the restaurant. The food is nothing short of spectacular. Ivan, the chef, used to run the kitchen at Havana Chef and he has taken many of the best dishes from there. Offerincs include an excellent salmon salad, gazpacho and lamb soup as appetizers and mouth watering rack of baby lamb ribs as a main as well as cheese risotto and excellent fish.
El Litoral (International)
Malecón #161 e/ K y L, Vedado
El Litoral opened its doors after extensive renovations in January 2014 in a renovated mansion almost next door to the US interest section. The ceilings are high but this is a modern finish with tasteful and elegant furniture. The menu is extensive with a range of tapas — try the foccacia de papa, pulpo y ajo tostado (Focaccia with octopus and garlic), Mejillones rellenos ‘Tigres’ (stuffed tiger Mussels) and Cazuela de chorizo al vino, pimienta y pan (Spanish sausage with wine and pepper) or just order a plate for the best-stocked cold cuts and salad bar in Havana.
5 Esquinas (Italian)
Habana #104, esq Cuarteles, Old Havana
Tucked away in a quieter corner of Old Havana, 5 Esquinas is a cool, clean, contemporary trattoria offering good food at reasonable prices — pizza, pasta, fish, salads, and soups. This is a place to enjoy fresh pasta, with preparations right out of the wooden oven with those lovely flavors of Italian cuisine.
Finca Agroecoligica El Paraiso (Cuban/ Caribbean)
Carretera Al Cementerio KM 1 1/2, Viñales
This little slice of paradise is part organic farm and part family-run restaurant owned by Wilfredo and his daughters. Wilfredo’s organic crops are planted in raised beds that lead out to beautiful panoramas of the Viñales valley. All of the food served is grown here on the property. Meals are served family style on the wrap-around porch of the farm house where tables are set with checkered cloths and paper napkins. The “anti-stress cocktail” which you receive upon arrival is quite legendary. A true farm-to-fork experience in Viñales!
El Olivo (Mediterranean)
Salvador Cisneros No 89, Viñales
Tremendous lasagna and pasta dishes are backed up by other Mediterranean classics such as duck a l’orange. Located on the main road in Viñales, not far from the town square, El Olivo opened in January 2012. The menu is abundant with soups, salads, appetizers, pasta, chicken, paella, and lamb dishes.
3J’s Tapas Bar (Tapas)
Salvador Cisneros #45, Viñales
This is the first modern and privately owned bar in Viñales. It has different delicious tapas in big portions. The bar is open 24/7 and it’s the perfect spot to grab a cocktail or a glass of wine and get acquainted with the locals who frequent here every night.
Finca del Mar (Seafood/ Creole)
Calle 35, Cienfuegos
One of the most elegant restaurants in the city of Cienfuegos. The place occupies the patio and garden areas of the owner’s family home, which was transformed in order to afford excellent positions to lay out the dining tables. The restaurant’s dining areas are partly al fresco, seeing as they are not enclosed by walls impeding the incoming fresh marine air, but are endowed with a roof to provide shelter from the sun. The restaurant leans mostly toward culinary specialties fresh from the sea, and includes other specialties derived from more traditional creole cooking.
Paladar Ache (Cuban/ International)
Av. 38, No. 4106, Cienfuegos
This privately owned restaurant features interesting decor including caged birds, the seven dwarfs re-created as garden gnomes and a wall relief map of Cienfuegos’ cultural icons. The establishment is set in a spacious ‘ranchon,’ a large thatch-roofed structure in the best bucolic style, furnished with a fair amount of tables. Roast pork headlines the comprehensive menu, but also includes a variety of fish and shellfish cooked over charcoal.
Paladar San Jose (Cuban/ Italian)
Maceo #382 e/ Trinidad
Lovely restaurant with good service offering a mixture of Cuban food, shellfish as well as great pizzas and pastas. The food is well prepared with generous portions. The restaurant is conveniently located on restaurant row in Trinidad on Calle Maceo and has two rooms: the room up front and an air conditioned room in the back.
Taberna La Botija (Tapas/ Creole)
Amargura 71-B esq. Boca, Trinidad
Settled in a very creative and interesting setting, decorated with historic slavery attributes, this paladar serves tapas and creole dishes as well as pizza and good wines. You’ll also find great Cuban jazz bands performing here.
Esquerra (Cuban/ Caribbean)
Francisco Javier Zerquera #464, Trinidad
Great location at the corner of Plaza Mayor with a view of the steps at Casa de la Musica. Good Cuban food and seafood and there is often live music. Upon arrival, everyone is served a mojito to get the night going. The portions are generous, so come hungry!
Paladar La Marinera (Cuban)
Jovellanos 178 e/ Iglesia y Perla , Casilda
Located about a 10 minute drive from Trinidad, La Marinera offers authentic Cuban food in a real Cuban atmosphere. The ambiance is a mixture between locals and tourists and it offers the best paella around.
Melange Grill & Bar (Cuban/ Caribbean)
Cisneros y San Clemente, Camaguey
Touted as being “Cuba’s Best Restaurant,” Melange Grill & Bar has an innovative take on traditional Cuban cuisine. Dishes like fish ceviche are delicate and yet full of flavor. Each meal begins with a complimentary serving of fresh plantain chips sprinkled with chives on top. The decor is whimsical with umbrellas hovering over the plants and herbs on the patio. One of the owners is a Miami based DJ and the musical influence is evident given the bouncy tunes wafting through the speakers and the decor throughout the dining area.
Meson del Principe (Cuban/ Caribbean)
7 Astilleros, Camaguey
Backed by its quality according to international standards, Meson del Principe is an elegant restaurant that offers an affordable fine-dining experience in a typically refined Camagueyan residence. The friendly staff fits nicely with the cozy Spanish Colonial atmosphere. It is places like this that have placed Camaguey at the cutting edge of Cuba’s new culinary revolution. Choose from a variety of fish and shellfish, pork, chicken and lamb dishes. A welcome drink is also included.
SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Ristorante Marino (Italian/ International)
Calle 10, No.157 e/ Calle 13 y Fernández Marcané, Rpto. Santa Bárbara, Santiago de Cuba
This family run paladar is a cozy, quiet place with an excellent view of the city. The menu includes a wide variety of international and Italian cuisine.
Sabor Cubano (Caribbean)
San Basilio #164 entre Corona y Padre Pico, Santiago de Cuba
The Restaurant Sabor Cubano is located on a rooftop terrace with views overlooking the city. The menu promises to delight the most demanding palate with a varied offer of exotic dishes and the most indigenous and attractive of Cuban food.
El Buen Sabor (Caribbean)
Calixto Garcia # 134, e/ Ciro Frías y Céspedes, Baracoa
Served on a spotless and breezy upstairs terrace, you can expect the best of Baracoan cuisine at this private restaurant including swordfish in a coconut sauce, bacan (raw green plantain melded with crabmeat and wrapped in a banana leaf) and chocolate-y deserts.