If you are expecting to eat mostly rice and beans on your trip to Cuba, get ready for a pleasant surprise. Despite the embargo, there are places that take a new approach to traditional Cuban cuisine, where the latest international methods meet the island’s tropical flavors. Here are 5 best restaurants in Havana that stand out and guarantee an exceptional culinary experience.
What are the best restaurants in Havana?
- Paladar San Cristobal – best seafood, authentic Cuban ambience and decor
- Otramanera – contemporary, sophisticated cuisine worth a Michelin star
- Dona Eutimia – best version of Cuba’s signature dish, ropa vieja
- Espacios – enchanting, secluded patio, inexpensive, tasty
- Il Rustico – authentic Italian pizza
1. Paladar San Cristobal $$
Calle San Rafael No 469 entre Lealtad y Campanario
(+53) 7 860 9109
Best for: ambience, seafood, décor, getting to know Cuban culture and history, meeting Cuban chef, pina colada
In Havana, San Cristobal is not just a restaurant, it’s an institution. Located in in the working-class neighborhood of Havana Centro, the place exudes authenticity, Cuban history, and charm. The food is traditional Cuban with an accent on fresh seafood. After all Cuba is an island!
Among the famous people who have dined here are president Obama, Beyonce and Jay Z, Nancy Pelosi, Jeff Bezos, and many other presidents, ambassadors, and celebrities. Yet, the restaurant and its gregarious chef/owner Carlos Cristobal manage to stay down to earth, maintain reasonable prices, and treat every guest as a celebrity.
The eclectic decor pays tribute to Cuban culture and history. It has a full-sized Santeria altar, a poster of the first Cuban woman to drive a car, and over 300 antique clocks. Our favorite dishes are in the seafood section: lobster in pineapple (about $20), white fish with rosemary ($16), and a seafood platter for two featuring fish, lobster, and shrimp ($25). Their piña colada ($6) is simply delicious and will make a perfect dessert! Vegetarian options are available.
Our advice: Make sure to shake hands with the always present chef Carlos Cristobal (usually wearing a red chef uniform) and ask your waiter for a mini-tour; there are some fun stories to be heard. Mention that it is your first time, and you will be treated with a complimentary sip of Cuban rum or a cigar.
2. Otramanera $$$
1810 Avenida 35, Miramar, Havana
(+53) 7 203 8315
Best for: modern cuisine, tranquil ambience, mojito
Hidden behind a tall fence in the tranquil, leafy neighborhood of Miramar, Otramanera is a world-class restaurant featuring international contemporary cuisine. Its minimalistic, airy decor makes you feel suddenly transported to a chef-owner boutique in Napa, California.
The sophisticated yet unpretentious food can compete with any top restaurant in the world. One of our travelers proclaimed his meal to be “the best I’ve had in a few years”. The secret behind Otramanera is its husband and wife team who come from Spain’s El Bulli, once named as the world’s best.
Otramanera may seem a bit pricy in comparison to other restaurants in Havana with entrees ranging from $16-22. Yet, a fair comparison would be against the Michelin rated venues in world capitals. Then it is definitely a deal that you don’t want to miss!
Our advice: Book in advance since the place is small and increasingly popular. Try their oversized mojito and passion fruit panna cotta. It is a little hard to spot, so rather than the name look for a tall, long fence and the number on the gate.
3. Dona Eutimia $
60-C, Callejon del Chorro, Havana
(+53) 7 801 3332
Best for: Ropa vieja, location – Plaza de Catedral, ambience, ice cream
When visiting Cuba you must try the country’s signature dish, ropa vieja (literal translation, ‘old clothes’), a delicious stew made of shredded beef or (rarely) lamb. After sampling ropa vieja all over Cuba, we easily give Dona Eutimia first place. Using lamb rather than beef, their ropa vieja is exceptionally tender, gently spiced, and simply delicious. Order with a side of the best black beans in Havana, and you will fall in love with Cuban food.
We once recommended Dona Eutimia to a friend who is a serious aficionado of Latin American cuisine. He went 3 days in a row! Their homemade ice cream makes a perfect dessert on a hot Cuban night. Exceptional quality is paired with great prices – entrees $8-12, deserts $4-5. Located right in Havana Vieja, in a tiny alley dotted with small restaurant and cafes, Dona Eutimia has a pleasant, traditional decor and a few outdoor tables.
Our advice: Book in advance and arrive earlier to pop in the artist co-op next door. Ask for an outdoor table and enjoy live music by street musicians often playing near by. Ask for the ice cream in a coconut shell.
4. Espacios $$
Calle 10 No. 513 e/5ta y 7ta, Miramar, Havana
(+53) 7 202 2921
Best for: outdoor dining on a large patio, shrimp in garlic, late night food
It feels like you arrived at someone’s house, and indeed Espacios (Spaces) is located in a large, private house in Miramar whose first floor was converted into a lounge. In the back, there is a beautiful, secluded patio and garden with an outdoor bar and grill. The menu offers a variety of options including delicious garlic shrimp and equally tasty grilled sausages. The entrees range from $9-16. The place is often full of younger Cubans who come for a drink and stay to dance. Late at night, the lounge inside turns into a dance floor.
Our advice: For a super deal, come on Monday when they offer a half price menu.
5. Il Rustico $
53 San Juan de Dios, Havana
(+53) 5 539 4514
Best for: authentic Italian pizza, frozen limonada, fast service, location, and ambience
No matter how much you love Cuban food, after a few days you might be in the mood for something as simple as a pizza. For a long time, the best pizza you could find in Havana was made of frozen dough with tomato sauce sparingly sprinkled with cheese. And then came Il Rustico. Run by a chef from Italy, this stylish establishment has a brick oven and serves crispy dough with toppings like sausage, frutti di mare, jamon, and the traditional margarita. The service is fast and cost more than reasonable: $6-12 for a large pizza. Il Rustico also serves frozen drinks made from fresh ingredients and crushed ice, a great relief to Havana’s hot days.
Our advice: For some reason Il Rustico does not always show up on Google maps or maps.me. If you have a problem finding the place, look for Restaurant Van Van. Il Rustico is diagonally across.
Need help? Do not hesitate to contact us!