You have just landed in Havana and all you can think about is grabbing some authentic Cuban food and hitting your hotel for a quick shower before hitting a night out. This is a common occurrence for any traveller no matter the destination. Truth be told, sometimes it is hard to know what to eat and where to eat when you have just gotten there. You want the most authentic food possible so that you can enjoy the culture and have some amazing memories (and pics for Instagram).
So in this guide, we will help you on your Cuban adventure to be able to find some of the best places in Cuba for authentic food and give you a few dishes that everyone must try when looking to experience the culture of Cuba through their cuisine. So, get your napkins to read because we are going to start with dishes to try before we give you some of the best restaurants to try them in.
Must-Try Cuban Food
“Food is very representative of a city’s culture. In order to really get to know a place and the people, you’ve got to eat the food.” – Emeril Lagasse
This quote is so true.
Often when we think about learning about a culture, we think of sites we can see and museums we can peruse, but when you really want to feel the soul of a nation, you have to look to their food culture as well. This means that when you are in Cuba, you need to eat Cuban food.
So, with that in mind here are 5 Cuban dishes you must try (there are tons more, but these are our favourites) and after that we will tell you where in Cuba to go for the best of the best.
Sometimes referred to as the national dish of Cuba this is a must for anyone who gets to the beautiful island nation. Braised pork in a tomato sauce and served with white rice. Try this meal but be warned it is super filling you may have to walk it off after.
The Cuban food equivalent to potato chips is just a bit more delicious. These are plantain chips are fried twice and often served with mojo sauce for dipping. Mojo is a mix of citrus, garlic and other seasonings and is a perfect accompaniment to the tostones.
We all have heard of a Cuban sandwich heck we may have had one, but there is nothing like having one where it originated. Also called a mix to this sandwich is made with thinly sliced roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard and is delicious. So, grab one and take a stroll through the streets.
Arroz Con Pollo
One of the simplest yet delicious meals you can get. This meal is as it translates…chicken and rice. But sometimes the simple stuff is the best.
Everyone knows flan, but do you know Cuban flan? Unless you have been to Cuba, probably not. It is made differently than the way you know, by the addition of egg whites and a cinnamon stick. You can get Cuban flan made with coconut and other delicious toppings. It is a must-have if you have a sweet tooth… or even if you don’t.
Cuban Black Bean Soup
If you want a vegetarian option, you should try the delicious black bean soup. It is made or black beans, oregano, and avocado and is simple yet delicious. (Tip if you are not a vegetarian add some bacon and this is perfect.
Where To Get The Best Authentic Cuban Food When In Cuba!
When on the hunt for a good authentic Cuban food you have several types of restaurants to choose from. You have state-run restaurants, paladares (independently owned restaurants), cafeteria’s, bakeries, street food, or local markets. The one thing is for sure you want to stay away from any touristy places (you will know them when you see them) if you want a truly amazing Cuban food.
Here are some of the best restaurants in Cuba:
Spectacular views from the top of a run-down building in central Havana may not seem like your typical upscale restaurant local, but with La Guarida that is what you get. Strewn across the walls are tons of movie memorial that serves to boost the ambiance to an all-new level.
La Guarida is one of the first paladares and offers a five-star Cuban fusion menu. Definitely a great place for a view of the city at night. It is a little more on the pricier end, so make this your destination for that special event or a night out on the town with that very special someone.
You dine in a loft or terrace of what used to be a factory that produced cooking oil. Seem fitting that a high-end trendy restaurant would take up residence here.
With a menu that mixes Cuban flavours with luxury dishes like grilled lobster or steak, El Cocinero gives you great views of the very popular Vedado neighbourhood. This is another pricey option that would be perfect for a meal before dancing the night away and drinking some delicious adult beverages.
If you are looking for great food and a nice atmosphere without the hefty bill at the end, then you should check out El Dandy. This retro café that sits on a beautiful street corner in Havana. It has a wide selection of cocktails and tapas and is a relaxed way to spend an evening with your friends.
If you want a touch of the Mediterranean mixed with spectacular Cuban ingredients, then make a reservation at Mediterraneo in Havana. This restaurant is built into a Vedado house and offers a farm to table menu of amazing pizzas and pasta cooked by the head chef Luigi Fiori.
When travelling, sometimes it is hard to find a vegetarian option especially in countries that are so meat-centric. That is why El Romero is such a find. This restaurant is in the village of Las Terrazas and offers a wonderful mix of vegetarian options with a Cuban flavour.
They even offer plates in different sizes so that if you are horrible at deciding you can just order a bunch of small plates and try everything your heart desires. Reasonably priced it is well worth the short voyage to the beautiful valley.
La Rosa Negra
Looking for something that will appease you and your vegan/vegetarian friends then try La Rosa Negra. You get all the deliciousness of traditional Cuban food without it being cooked in animal fat. Win-win. Plus, they make some awesome cocktails as well.
Take traditional Cuban food and add a modern twist and you will get the menu at this very popular spot in Vedado, Los Naranjos. A little pricier than some of your normal paladares but well worth it when you taste the food and enjoy the live music.
Do you want to try one of the best Ropa Vieja in Havana? Then you absolutely need to make your way to Old Havana and Dona Eutimia. This restaurant is in the more touristy neighbourhood and located in one of the main thoroughfares (alleys) in Old Havana.
But it is not your typical tourist trap. The menu is chock full of authentic Cuban food. Plus, it is by far some of the best Cuban food you can get. You will need to book ahead as it is super popular, but it is well worth it.
Another place that resides in the tourist trap that is Old Havana El Patio is not like the others. This restaurant offers traditional Cuban food at decent prices. Its menu is laden with truly authentic and traditional Cuban dishes. It also has an amazing view of the Plaza de la Catedral.
La Cocina D’ Lilliam
Are you looking for vegetarian options while still getting some of the best Cuban food in Cuba? If yes, then head to this exclusive family-owned restaurant, La Cocina D’ Lilliam. Sit in the garden where the likes of Jimmy Carter as sat and enjoy the amazing food and outstanding ambiance.
Just remember that t has a limited opening schedule and that you will definitely need to make a reservation.
The trick to really absorbing your time in Cuba is to experience as much of the culture as you can. This means being adventurous. Not only should you immerse yourself in sights and activities. It also means trying out some of the most authentic Cuban food.
Whether you are a devout foodie or you simply want to get the most out of your time in the Cuban surroundings, the above recommendations are a great place to start. We hope that with this guide that we have designed for you, that you are able to do just that. So, as they would say in Cuba, “Buen Provecho”!
Since you’re probably already planning your trip to Cuba right now, why not check out all the Things To Do In Cuba?