Written by Kieran Proctor

Havana Food Tours

So, you’re wanting to try the best food Cuba has to offer. But you don’t know where to start? Well, ...

So, you’re wanting to try the best food Cuba has to offer. But you don’t know where to start? Well, you need a guide. Someone who can help you explore Cuban cuisine. And I recommend Alvaro. For all things food, Alvaro is our man in Havana.

Havana Food Tours – How I Met Alvaro

As those who’ve read my other articles on Cuba will know, my first Airbnb experience in Cuba was less than ideal. On my second night in Havana I walked out onto my doorstep to get wifi and found myself in the middle of running gang battle involving broken bottles, bricks and kitchen knives.

Well, I needed to move house. So I hopped onto Airbnb once more. And I saw a listing that mentioned Australia.

I’m an Aussie. And this listing had reference to Australia and Australians. It also mentioned that the apartment had great security and was in the more upscale neighbourhood of Vedado. Great, I thought.

But how to get my luggage, with all the extras I’d brought with me to Cuba, to the new Airbnb in Vedado from Habana Vieja? And how to make the move without getting robbed in the process?

Well, Alvaro stepped up and had one of his trusted private drivers come and pick me up. Alvaro literally rescued me out of the slum that is Habana Vieja.

Over the course of the next three months, he’d show me all of the secret Cuban markets, hidden bars and otherwise unknown restaurants your typical tourist types would never get to visit.

Alvaro and John
Alvaro and John setting up their restaurant in Havana, Cuba

Over the course of that three months I’d watch on as Alvaro and his partner John, budding Cuban entrepreneurs, started their very own restaurant in Cuba. Entirely from scratch. And that, my friends, is no easy task. Piece by piece they built their restaurant from items source both privately and from Revolico.

Cuba isn’t the first world. It’s not even the third world. It’s entirely in a league of its own. Imagine hiring an electrician, a ladder for the electrician and then a truck to transport the ladder to the electrician. All so you could have a simple light fixture installed. A light fixture you’d had to pay somebody to make for you, entirely from scratch.

Alvaro and John Light Fixture in Havana Cuba
The famous lights..

Or imagine buying grass for your restaurants footpath. Only to realise that the grass you’d just bought was likely stolen and came with a tick infestation. Which required you to then hire an exterminator. And equipment for the exterminator and then a truck to transport everything. And, well, you get the picture. Welcome to Cuba.

Not only did Alvaro and his partner John manage to get their new restaurant fitted out from scratch under conditions of entrepreneurial adversity the likes of which you couldn’t imagine; they also managed to hire great chefs and create tastings for various embassy staffers, garnering themselves rave reviews amongst the diplomatic community in Havana.

They MacGyver’d the heck outta their restaurant. And they’d managed to get rave reviews. In Cuba. With no money. And a level of adversity you can’t imagine. They’re the real deal entrepreneurs.

Alvaro and John restaurant tasting menu
First Menu Tasting

Yet, alas, communism did finally kill their dream. But only for now.

Between exploding hotels, exploding oil refineries and rolling blackouts, it all became a little much to sustain a newly established restaurant. I mean, there were no tourists and a local Cuban doesn’t know the difference between food stamp chicken and five star cuisine.

But this is where you, the tourist, gets very lucky.

Alvaro and John are now providing food tours in Havana. You can’t take away the entrepreneurial spirit from these lads.

Alvaro’s Havana Food Tour

Alvaro’s food tours in Havana are an immersive experience that melds delicious Cuban cuisine with local insight. Stepping off the prototypical tourist trail traipsed by everyone before you, you’ll instead experience real Havana. In all its crumbling glory.

You’ll venture into local markets and visit food stands while learning about Cuba’s diverse, divisive and at times, ultimately tumultuous history. You’ll taste Cuban favorites both new and old, learn useful tips to make your stay on the island all the more enjoyable and you’ll see a side of Havana often hidden from foreigners.

And afterwards, you’ll share a meal in Alvaro’s home. You’ll be treated with traditional Cuban hospitality to a selection of traditional Cuban dishes. All served along with a selection of traditional cuban cocktails.

Over this meal you’ll get to discuss life on the island and what it’s really like to be, Cuban. With over 6 years experience working in the tourism sector in Cuba, Alvaro knows his island better than most.

Throughout his tours his foremost goal is to ‘create the most memorable, engaging and authentic Cuban travel experience for you by connecting you with more than just food, but also the stories and Cuban folklore behind each dish.’

And as you’ll learn from your experience with Alvaro, when you’re guided by a local, Cuban gastronomy can be amazing.

Gastronomy in Cuba

Alvaro’s culinary tour through Havana Cuba can be tailored to your needs, desires and dietary restrictions. So don’t be afraid to ask.

What I learnt during my 3 month stay in Cuba was that when you’re guided by a local, Cuban gastronomy can be amazing. But when you go it alone, Cuban gastronomy can often result in nothing more than an empty wallet and a bad case of gastro.

Depending on your dietary restrictions and how adventurous you feel, or rather how much of a neophile foodie you are, Alvaro can introduce you to dishes you’d have never considered trying.

Before Cuba, I’d have never thought to try Pulpo (octopus). Or lobster as I’m not really a seafood type of guy. But now I love it. And all I can say is it’s delicious.

Cocktails in Cuba

All of Alvaro’s food tours incorporate a sneaky cocktail or two. But Alvaro can also organise more rebellious days or evening tours around Cuba’s cocktail culture. Yet if you think a Cuba Libre is the high point of Cuban cocktail culture, you’re in for a shock.

Cuba is an alcoholics paradise. Because Cuba has more varieties of cocktails than anybody could ever sample in a single trip. And boy, did I try.

There were so many cocktails that I’d never seen or heard about before. With a traditional Cuban Canchanchara now one of my favourite summer drinks. Its made from Cuban aguardiente, honey, and fresh lime juice and you definitely need to try it.

For those of you who may be wanting to see, try or imbibe a huge variety of Cuba’s finest cocktails, definitely get Alvaro to organise your outing. And pro tip, have Alvaro bring along his wingman John who’s himself, an expert mixologist.

So, what are you waiting for? Head over to Alvaro’s page.

You could be living the foodies dream right now. With a sneaky cocktail or two and a view to die for. All while learning about the trials and tribulations of love, life, business and food in Cuba. And how no amount of International sanctions or domestic bureaucracy can extinguish the Cuban entrepreneurial spirit.

For all things food, Alvaro is our man in Havana.

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I recommend you read it, before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.

My Cuba travel guide will save you a lot of time and money on your next trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can arrive unprepared. Read the most complete Cuba Travel Guide.