Sergio García Macías runs one of the busiest restaurants in Havana (especially at lunchtime), El Aljibe, which features a 62-year-old secret recipe for roast chicken that has drawn the likes of Hollywood star Jack Nicholson and former President Jimmy Carter. This is a great place for Creole food, as well as the chicken and the rice, which are excellent, and the French fries and fresh bread to complement. While there is other stuff on the menu, the as-much-as-you-can-eat El Aljibe chicken, CUC 12, is what you go there for.
Sergio and his older brother, Pepe, 82, opened their first restaurant, El Aljibe’s predecessor, in 1947. Located in the countryside west of Havana, it was called Rancho Luna. Soon after the Revolution, the restaurant closed down. In 1993, Sergio was asked if he would help revive Rancho Luna. He agreed and it opened under a new name, El Aljibe.
Their late mother, Toña Macías, came up with the chicken recipe. Mr. García won’t reveal any family secrets, but says the recipe includes garlic and bitter orange as well as some other (secret) ingredient. Whatever it is (and maybe it’s simply the juice left from the chicken in the pan) it works and the effect with the speciality Aljibe chicken is spectacular.
The ambience is OK for lunch, I am less keen for dinner, and bear in mind that this is a place that attracts hundreds of people in tour buses at lunch so do not expect a small intimate place, but a slick well-oiled machine that is probably the best state-run restaurant in Cuba.