street view of Cinco Sentidos restaurant (paladar)

Cuba’s Best Local Restaurants and Cafes

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As you plan out your Cuba trip, you’ll want to find the best food and drink options that Cuba has to offer. You’ll also need to make sure that the restaurants on your itinerary meet the guidelines for the Support for the Cuban People category, which require that you directly support privately owned businesses.

The great news is there are lots of restaurants that fit this description—with mouth watering menus, traditional flavors, and terrific service that you can add to your itinerary. Keep reading to find out more about the food scene in Cuba, our top picks for private restaurants (also called paladares) and how to make reservations.

Food in Cuba: A Quick Overview

Food traditions in Cuba have always been rooted in Caribbean staples like yucca, plantains, rice, beans, sugar cane, avocado, pork, and plentiful fruits and vegetables. However, the hardships of the past few decades have reduced the abundance and variety of Cuban cuisine, and the once flourishing restaurant landscape ceased to exist for many years until recently, when paladares (privately owned restaurants) exploded onto the scene.

Today, Cuba is home to many amazing paladares. Cuba’s private restaurant owners work magic to source the ingredients they need to operate day-to-day, and the support they get from foreign visitors is a huge part of what keeps them afloat.

Cuba’s culinary traditions are simple and delicious. In most restaurants, you can get fantastic seafood dishes, ropa vieja (a traditional slow cooked shredded beef), and pork in various forms with mouthwatering sides of beans and rice, fried sweet plantains, croquettes, and simple fresh salads of cucumber, tomato, cabbage or avocado. However you will also find more familiar offerings as well, like tacos, sushi, burgers, pizza, and Middle Eastern cuisine.

It’s never been easier to contact restaurants directly—via email, WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram—so if you’re planning your own independent trip to Cuba, making reservations is a snap. So without further ado, here are our favorites:

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Grados

If there is one paladar that you must try during your visit to Cuba, it’s Grados. Owned and operated by head cook and culinary force of nature Raulito Bazuk, the menu is a delicious and constantly changing experimentation of traditional Cuban flavors reimagined in new and interesting ways. Located in the house where Raulito grew up, in a residential area of Vedado, a meal at Grados is a special experience—an indulgence of flavors and a multi-sensorial education in the Cuban culinary palate.

Otramanera

Located out of the way in a quiet corner of Miramar, Otramanera is another paladar that strives and succeeds at creating a menu of dishes that stands above the rest. In addition to high quality versions of traditional dishes, the menu features creative soups, salads and other small dishes that demonstrate an attention to detail and dedication to complex flavors that is rare at many of Cuba’s paladares. It’s location is also a great excuse to explore this area of Havana, which is full of quiet streets, embassy buildings, and well maintained architectural gems.

Yarini Habana

tables and plants at Yarini Habana Rooftop

Yarini is owned by one of Cuba’s most beloved and successful living film actors, the talented Jorge Perugorría. The food is outstanding and the ambiance and backstory are fascinating. Located on a multilevel rooftop with amazing views of San Isidro, a historically marginalized Afro-Cuban neighborhood, Yarini gets its namesake from a famous Robin Hood-esque historical figure who was gunned down in the streets of Havana not far from the restaurant. They frequently host music and DJs as well, which lands them on our culture nightlife guide as well.

El Café

interior view of menu and counter at El Café in Havana

There are not many breakfast spots in Havana, mostly because there is not as much need, since casas particulares usually offer an abundant and inexpensive breakfast to guests. But if you get tired of the breakfast at your rental, or even if you don’t, El Café is the first place you should go. The coffee is top notch, as are the smoothies, sandwiches, and various other fresh breakfast plates. And the location right in the center of Old Havana is perfect if you’re looking for a place to charge up before exploring the historic district on foot.

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Tierra

Located inside of Fábrica de Arte Cubano, Havana’s multi-disciplinary art gallery meets night club, Tierra manages to put together a collection of dishes that pushes beyond the usual Cuban options into Greek, Middle Eastern and Thai. As a mission-driven project to improve Cuba’s food sustainability and save la tierra (the Earth), they source food grown and produced at nearby farms outside of the city. Also, if you book a reservation, you get to skip the line at the nightclub’s entrance, which can sometimes be very long!

El Cocinero

El Cocinero outdoor dining area in Havana

El Cocinero serves a fantastic menu with both indoor and open air rooftop dining. It has a uniquely designed layout inside an adjacent part of the defunct “Cocinero” cooking oil factory next to Fábrica de Arte. The rooftop is beautiful at sunset, and the vibe gets even better when they host bands and DJs (check out our culture nightlife guide for more…).

Eclectico

Eclectico is the in-house Italian restaurant at Paseo 206 Boutique Hotel, which is among Havana’s nicest private lodging options. It’s owned by an Italian-Cuban family, so they know what they are doing—this is quite possibly the best Italian-Cuban food on the entire island.

El Bleco

interior of el bleco bar in havana cuba

El Bleco has more of a lounge-y feel—it’s all about the vibes—but there is also a terrific, if limited, food menu. The pizza is great, the space is fantastically designed, and the view of the waterfront provides an iconic backdrop. With live DJs every night of the week, there is always a fun mix of fancy Cubans and tourists out having a good time.

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La Guarida

La Guarida facade in Havana, Cuba

Despite being this far down on our list, there are several things that make La Guarida a must for anyone visiting Havana. First, it’s one of the oldest and most storied paladares—it was featured in the 1993 film Fresa y Chocolate, which was nominated for an Oscar—and its crumbling, labyrinthian grandeur create an ambiance that perfectly captures the contradictions of Havana. The food is always good and the views of the city from the rooftop are spectacular.

While still being very hospitable to the fancy and foreign, it’s location in Centro Havana—the shabby neighborhood separating tourist-friendly Old Havana and Vedado—makes it a refreshing departure from the main tourist zones of the city.

O’Reilly 304 and El Del Frente

When O’Reilly 304 opened in 2015 it quickly gained a reputation for it’s quirky, bohemian vibe and delicious food. With an eclectic mix of dishes (they were the first paladar in Havana to perfect tacos), it soon became too popular, so the owner opened El Del Frente (“the place across the street”) right across the street! El Del Frente continues the culinary excellence of it’s older sibling, but has a larger and more modern ambiance, including a small but very nice rooftop.

El Dandy

Street view of El Dandy Bar and Cafe

Located on the corner of the lively and bustling Plaza de Cristo in Old Havana, El Dandy is a real charmer. With its rustic wooden furnishings, dim lighting, and walls adorned with photos of Cuban dive bars (taken by the owner), this spot offers a nostalgic ambiance perfect for savoring a delicious meal or taking in the passers by as you sip a drink. Clandestina, Dador and many other local shops are nearby, making it a great place to stroll after eating.

Fangio

Located at the Claxon Hotel Boutique in Vedado, Fangio offers a small but delicious menu of fish, pasta, salad and vegetarian dishes. With seating indoors or outdoors in the gardens, front portico or rooftop, this is a great option for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They often have live music at night, landing them on our Culture Nightlife Guide as well!

Jama

Jama, which is owned and operated by the same people who run O’Reilly 304 and El Del Frente, takes its name from the Cuban slang for food. So you might be surprised that their menu is exclusively Asian inspired dishes, including sushi, ramen and several Thai options. Though not exactly authentic, the menu does a great job of playfully infusing Cuban and Asian flavors.

Topoly

Located in Vedado in a beautiful historic home with wrap-around open air veranda dining, Topoly is a remarkable restaurant with a delicious menu of Iranian-Cuban dishes. How is this possible? It’s owner is an Iranian man who married a Cuban and raised a family in Havana.

Cinco Sentidos

Cinco Sentidos has earned a reputation as one of Havana’s top dinner spots for its vibrant fusion of Cuban and international cuisine. Nestled in the heart of Old Havana, this charming restaurant is one of the few in the city that feels like it could hold its own against the competition in any city in the Americas.

Michifú

Located in Centro Havana just a block from La Guarida, Michifú serves Cuban food with a French touch. The indoor/outdoor dining space is amazing, and evenings almost always include live performances by local groups featuring the grand piano that lives there.

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