Elena’s where’s hot and where’s not insider guide to dining in Havana

In the last couple of years the Havana dining scene has been growing nonstop with more paladares, different cuisine options, innovative interior decors and interesting menus. Nevertheless, as much as some of the new (and old) options are an “UP,” many paladares have also shown some “DOWNS.” Here we mention a few of the “ups” and “downs” found recently in the restaurants and bars of the city.


Wine selection at Río Mar:
This is a handsome paladar in Miramar, in the area known as La Puntilla. It is located by the water, the view is great and the décor is gorgeous. Nevertheless this paladar has failed to deliver wine options for the drinkers looking for an unexpensive food-friendly red. In the last visits we have been presented not with a wine list but with an array of bottles with complicated labels from France, Spain, Argentina and Chile with prices ranging from 35 to CUC 85 per bottle. Come on! What about an unpretentious Villa Maipo or Santa Digna for the unpretentious drinkers?

The waitress’ attitude at La Carboncita:
La Carboncita is one of the best pizza places in town, service is quick, food is delicious, prices are more than affordable and the owner is super kind and friendly to say the least. Unfortunately that friendliness is a characteristic that most of the female waiters at the place do not share. In the last visits they were unhelpful, dismissive and rude. One of them gave us a table with three chairs (while we were four) and never volunteered to bring a chair or look for one, and then demanded our order one minute after handing us one menu for all of us… she looked quite unhappy when we asked for a couple of extra minutes and more menus. Anyway girls, the restaurant is already great, wouldn’t hurt to wear a smile once in a while! Get rid of that ‘tude.

The flies at Dr. Café:
This is a real down and a real pity. The restaurant is far from spectacular in terms of its décor, but it is really great when it comes to its grilled entrees, such as the barbecue ribs, the beef filet, the chorizos (or sausages), plus other options such as the lobster, shrimp kebab and garlic shrimp just to name a few. The prices are good, the wine options are plenty but so are the flies…yes, the flies! If you choose the outdoor sitting option prepare yourself to be fighting against an army of flies through your meal. My suggestion for Doctor Café: more fans and more fumigating.

The fiddler at Chaplin’s:
This fairly new paladar in Miramar has really good-looking indoor and outdoor sitting areas. The food options are good and the prices reasonable. Nevertheless the management has decided (I am sure with good intentions) to provide entertainment for the evening guests in form of a fiddler with a very limited repertoire. In one of the recent visits we listened to the same songs three to four times. My suggestion to the fiddler: increase your repertoire or take longer breakes.


The mojito at Partenón:
This has been an “up” since Javier Acosta (the owner) opened this paladar in Miramar almost two years ago. The mojito is a multi-sensory experience: it is not only beautiful to look at, it is refreashing, tasty and, given its size, challenging. Each mojito is made at the moment you order, so instead of pre-made mixes, you get fresh squeezed lime and mint “du jour.” I would not be afraid to say it is the best mojito in Havana and it is worth the trip to Partenón where one can also find some of the best food and service in town.

The oxtail at La Comercial:
According to my dinning accomplices this could be one of the best kept secrets in Havana. The oxtail in La Comercial is indeed a mouth-watering experience, a hearty stew with obvious hours of careful and skillful cooking behind it. The dish is served to your plate from beautiful antique bowls and it is usually advisable to match it with a starchy side dish: mashed potatoes or white rice will do.

Bar stools at Casa Miglis:
Named as the Best Paladar in Centro Habana by Cuba Absolutely, Casa Miglis has done many things right since its opening almost a year ago. The food is good, the prices are affordable, the service is fast and friendly, and the décor is fun, eclectic and modern. Nevertheless the barstools stand out: they are antique wooden dining room chairs supported by a rod that gives them appropriate height of a bar stool. They are fun and they are original. Stop for a drink and see them for your self!

Birthday brownie at Café Laurent:
This “up” is a great example that it doesn’t take a lot to make a great impression. Just recently celebrating a birthday with a group of friends in the beautiful Café Laurent, the management volunteered a delicious brownie, on the house, with a candle and even brought the wait staff to join in the singing of “Felicidades” the traditional birthday song in Cuba. May seemed small, but it brought a lot of smiles to our table.

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