Although Havana generally gets a bad rap for its food, personally, I ate tons of amazing meals at many of the trendy new restaurants that have been popping up all over Havana. And if you do your research in advance, you’ll be sure to also have an amazing food experience while there. If you’re wondering where to eat and drink in Havana, here are some of the best restaurants, cafes, and bars in Havana that served up some of my favorite meals!
It’s true that food in Havana, and Cuba in general, can be hit-or-miss. Produce available to locals is often of poor quality and very limited, and not any restaurant you find on the street is going to be clean or have good food or a nice atmosphere. However, there are tons of new eateries (often privately-owned) that are making names for themselves in Havana, and are worth scheduling into your itinerary in order to try some really delicious cuisine.
Currency Note: 1 CUC equals about 1 USD. For more information on understanding Cuban currency, exchange, and using international credit and debit cards, read: TRAVELING TO CUBA AS AN AMERICAN: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW. (The currency information is relevant to you even if you aren’t American!)
These are great spots for a light breakfast, afternoon snack, or pre-dinner tapas. Of course, with enough tapas you’ve got yourself a full meal, so these places certainly aren’t off-limits for dinner!
1) El Cafe
This hip little cafe was my favorite spot for breakfast. It’s also one of the few places you can get a super healthy meal for a very affordable price in Havana. Here you can get hummus plates, a breakfast of fresh eggs and a salad and the cafe’s heavenly sourdough bread, fresh fruit, yogurt and granola, and other lighter dishes. There are also more indulgent options, like French toast served with honey-poached quava, pancakes, and a pulled BBQ pork and orange marmalade panini which was amazing. The coffee is great here too!
I came here for tapas the first night I arrived in Havana, and couldn’t stop thinking about it the rest of the trip. It gets busy for dinner, but is a nice spot to have some pre-dinner tapas (the tacos and croquettes are amazing) in a cozy setting. If you’re feeling indulgent, the daiquiris are massive and shaped into cute creatures like Minions or animals.
Created by Fidel Castro in the 1960s, this long-standing and rather famous ice cream parlor chain sells tasty scoops and cartons of ice cream for extremely low prices. Because the prices are so low, it’s also where locals go to stock up on cartons of ice cream, so you’ll almost certainly have to wait in a line for around 30 minutes or so. But it’s a great opportunity to get out of the tourist areas, people watch, and decide for yourself whether this really is some of the best ice cream in Cuba (or the world, as some have boldly claimed). You can use CUPs here if you have them, but they also accept CUCs (which generally will allow you to skip the queue).
Each of these restaurants will serve light- to hearty meals, so they’re great for a casual lunch or dinner. If you’re looking for a bit more of a bar/social scene, the following section will have you covered!
1) Al Carbon
This spot was recommended to me by a friend who lives in Havana, and it ended up being my favorite meal of my entire time in Cuba. The interior is beautiful, with that typical Cuban decor style where a hodgepodge of random antiques are somehow made into art. Don’t miss the breads & dips spread (I could have just feasted on these dips for a meal and been happy), and the meat empanadas. The roasted squash salad was also super fresh and tasty, and the lobster quesadillas were super rich but incredible. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, this place is famous for their whole suckling pig. The drinks and fresh juices are incredible as well!
Great for trendy Cuban food, but the line gets very long in the evenings. The scene is pretty fun and lively, so it’s a good place to get oriented to the city vibes as well as the local cuisine. Head there a for an early dinner, or be prepared to wait in line an hour or so. But people watching in the square on which El Chanchullero sits is an easy and entertaining way to pass the time!
3) El Dandy
I loved loved loved the tacos here and coffee here! I also loved the cute cat that hung around and sat on patrons laps (not really begging for food, just wanting to nap), the cozy and eclectic decor, and the chill vibes. It gets a bit livelier at night, and is a fun class for a casual meal with a really social scene.
If you’re looking for some evening bites with fun social vibes, epic views, or live music, head to these fun evening hot spots! All serve food in addition to cocktails, so you won’t leave hungry. You can have lunch or dinner here (with the exception of La Fabrica), but I think these places get especially fun at night, which is why they’re in a separate category.
1) El Floridita
Heminway’s old stomping ground and rumored to be his favorite place for daiquiris (although the quote often attributed to him is of questionable accuracy, it is true that he loved coming here for drinks). It’s now packed with patrons and a live jazz band from the minute it opens to the minute it closes, so come for a fun evening, probably mingling and maybe dancing with some strangers.
This spot is a fun, more casual alternative to the famous O’Reilly’s (the parent sister restaurant of El Def Frente and located just across the street). Both the upstairs dining area and rooftop bar have really lively, fun vibes in the evenings, but if you have good weather, I of course recommend the rooftop bar for sunset and evening libations. The tacos were amazing, and the drinks are made with the freshest ingredients (try the passionfruit mojito!). If you want a table, definitely make a reservation; otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a spot or two at the bar upstairs.
Perhaps one of the most famous fine-dining restaurants in Havana, La Guarida is a must for your first time in Cuba, even just to see the beautiful, crumbly, grand colonial building in which it’s housed. Dinner reservations should be made at least a week in advance, but you can snag a lunch spot more easily.
However, I recommend skipping the main dining area altogether and heading to the roof, which for some reason most people haven’t yet discovered. Simply turn right at the host’s stand, and take the spiral staircase up. Here you’ll find a really cool outdoor bar with incredibly views of Havana — it’s great for tacos and drinks, and obviously is bit more casual than the dining area downstairs (but you won’t feel out of place if you dress up).
Head up the spiral staircase one more level to reach the very top of the roof, with 360-degree views of Havana and the sea, probably alone because no one knows to go up there. Great for sunset!
Know to be one of the most remarkable spaces in Havana, this art-gallery-meets-nightclub has drawn a huge crowd of Havana’s progressive youth. It’s built inside a former cooking oil factory, but now hosts live performances and events, art exhibitions, and night-owls looking for a somewhat more sophisticated place to spend their nights. Expect to wait in line outside for around 30 minutes to an hour, but even that will be a fun experience people-watching.
Although you may be warned by some friends or articles about Havana’s food scene, don’t listen. As long as you do you research in advance, you’ll find some incredible eateries with fresh, delicious food in trendy spaces! Be sure to visit at least some (or all!) of these best restaurants in Havana while there. They won’t disappoint!
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Have any other restaurants, cafes, or bars in Havana, Cuba to add to this list? Leave them in the comments below!