Havana, the vibrant capital of Cuba, is known for its rich culture, stunning architecture, old cars, cigars and is slowly emerging as a hot spot for its unique cuisine. With a myriad of restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets, Havana has something for everyone. Yet it’s certainly not a foodies paradise, yet.
In this guide, we will explore some of the best restaurants in Havana, highlighting their unique offerings and ambiance. Whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner, a casual lunch or a lively bar scene, Havana has something for you.
Now, before we dive right in, it’s important to make clear what sets this guide apart from all the others on the internet. The difference between this Havana food guide and all the others, is that I actually stay long-term in Cuba. I travel to Cuba for 3 months or more per trip. And I eat at all of the restaurants contained in this guide on a regular basis. And you can see who I am here.
So, with that said, here’s your guide to the best restaurants in Havana Cuba!
What are the best restaurants in Havana Cuba?
Exploring Old Havana’s Culinary Delights
Old Havana, with its charming cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, is a treasure trove of culinary delights. Paladares, privately-owned restaurants, are scattered throughout the narrow streets and can offer a unique dining experience.
One standout restaurant in Old Havana is La Guarida. La Guarida is not only among the best restaurants in Havana but also a cultural icon. This famous paladar gained international recognition after being featured in the critically acclaimed movie “Strawberry and Chocolate.”
La Guarida’s rooftop terrace offers stunning sunset views of the city. While the menu features a fusion of Cuban and international flavors. It’s the closest you’ll find to a Michelin Star restaurant in Cuba. La Guarida also features the most photographed staircase in Havana Cuba.
Another popular choice in Old Havana is Ivan Chef Justo. Which is located on Aguacate 9, just opposite the Memorial Granma, the boat that ferried the revolutionaries to Cuba from Miami.
Ivan Chef Justo is located in a centuries old building with an eclectic decor. Its claim to fame is Ivan’s roast pork. And that the restaurant has actually served Ivan’s roast pork to royalty. Ivan Chef Justo is one of the restaurants in which I chose to spend my own 40th birthday (yes, I’m old).
For a smaller ‘paladar’ experience and one that will be both cheaper, more intimate and with a uniquely Cuban flavour, try Jibaro. This rustic restaurant specializes in traditional Cuban cuisine and fusions, with dishes like ropa vieja and moros y cristianos.
Jibaro is a fantastic spot for a late lunch or early dinner. It boasts a collection of cocktails you’ve probably never heard of, at prices that aren’t ridiculous, and with a menu that changes by the day.
Jibaro is located about a block from the Iglesia Y Convento De La Merced in Old Havana. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make Jibaro a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
If you’re looking for something more international and trendy in Havana, try Jama or Yarini. Jama is an asian inspired restaurant with some of the freshest sushi rolls in the city.
Yet if you’re in the mood for some live entertainment with your meal, Yarini is the perfect choice. This cabaret-style restaurant offers a dinner show featuring traditional Cuban music and dance. Indulge in their delectable Cuban dishes while enjoying the captivating performances.
Yarini is set on a roof top terrace, has an amazing view and a large range of cocktails that will have you rolling home.
No restaurant list of Havana is complete without mentioning ChaChaCha. Because it’s on everyones else’s restaurant list, but its actually just an overpriced tourist trap.
ChaChaCha is a place that those who don’t know anything about food in Havana list as a top restaurant. It’s located next-door to Ivan Chef Justo and people writing about Havana often get ChaChaCha confused with Ivan Chef Justo.
If you’re hungover after trying the restaurants mentioned above, visit El Cafe in Old Havana for an all day breakfast. El Cafe boasts the best coffee in Old Havana. And you can even pay for your meal in cryptocurrencies.
7 Best Restaurants in Old Havana listed (Habana Vieja)
Here’s a handy list of the 5 best restaurants in Old Havana that you should try to visit while in town. I’ve listed the restaurants in the order that you should visit them. And based on their international reputation and the holiday photo opportunities that each restaurant provides.
Click each restaurant to see its location on google maps:
- La Guarida (most famous restaurant in Havana)
- Ivan Chef Justo (second most famous restaurant in Havana)
- ChaChaCha (a bit of a tourist trap)
- El Cafe (for big breakfasts and fantastic coffee)
A Fusion of Flavors in Vedado
Vedado, a vibrant neighborhood in Havana that’s only a 10 minute La Nave (Cuba’s Uber) ride away from Old Havana, is known for its lively nightlife and eclectic dining scene. One standout restaurant in Vedado is La Reserva.
La Reserva is an upmarket restaurant located in a restored colonial house. It offers a unique fusion of Cuban and international cuisine. La Reserva also functions as a boutique hotel and it caters to Havana’s elites and to foreign dignitaries stationed in Cuba.
For one of the best waterfront dining experiences in Vedado, try Casa Mia Paladar. Run by a Cuban-Italian couple, this family-owned restaurant serves authentic Italian cuisine with a Cuban twist. The warm and welcoming atmosphere makes you feel right at home.
The sunset view of waves crashing over the Malecón (Cuba’s seawall) from Casa Mia Paladar is spectacular. It’s where I spent sunset on the eve of my 40th birthday. Bookings are essential for Casa Mia Paladar, particularly around sunset.
In third spot on this list, but in number one position for others, is Costa Vino. Now Costa Vino has the second best view (after Casa Mia Paladar) and the best range of wines available in Havana.
Yet Costa Vino is also highly rated for its seafood. But in my experience the seafood and service at Costa Vino can be spectacular one day and terrible the next. It lacks the consistency of other restaurants on this list.
As an example I’ve had the enchilado de langosta (Cuban Creole lobster) twice from Costa Vino. Both times the flavour and presentation were spectacular.
Yet the second time I ordered the enchilado de langosta from Costa Vino, they took 2 hours to serve it. And the ‘chef’ decided to blend in the shells. Giving it the texture of sharp sand and making it ultimately inedible.
For those who love seafood and want to try the best ‘pulpo’ (octopus) in Havana and probably, the best in Cuba, visit El Idillio in Vedado. Now, disclaimer here, El Idillio doesn’t look like much from the street, the decor is average and at peak hour the road noise can be annoying. But the octopus is fantastic!
Grilled, fried, baked and even deep fried octopus. El Idillio are the ‘pulpo’ masters of Havana. Their octopus should be sampled by all seafood lovers when in Havana.
For those of you who want locally sourced organic foods, coffee, local breads, jams and muesli’s, El Cimarrón should be your first (and only) choice. El Cimarrón is set in an old colonial house on a quiet suburban street in Vedado and it also functions as a kind of art project space and speak easy.
El Cimarrón teaches local Afro-Caribbean dance, capoeira and holds artsy events. It’s a fantastic spot away from the noise and chaos typically associated with Havana. If you need somewhere to chill out, grab a bite to eat and have a coffee, visit El Cimarrón.
Last but not least on this list is my own go to coffee shop for when I need a regular cafe that serves a large English style breakfast, or if I just want a basic no frills gin and tonic in the afternoon, I visit Boné Ma.
Boné Ma is located on calle 21 in Vedado. Just down from the Hotel Nacional and Hotel Capri. It’s also about 1 block over from the Tryp Hotel Habana Libre. So if you’re in or around one of those hotels and need a good breakfast, visit Boné Ma.
But do note, Boné Ma is located right next-door to the local Communist association. So don’t be too vocal about your dislike of communism.
6 Best restaurants in Vedado listed
I’ve listed the restaurants below based on food quality, photo opportunities that they present and their overall vibe. This is the order I think you should try to visit each restaurant while in Cuba.
Click each restaurant to see its location on google maps:
- La Reserva (intimate fine dining with best main course)
- Casa Mia Paladar (best sunset view, cocktails and entree)
- Costa Vino (best wine and second best sunset view)
- El Idillio (best octopus – ‘pulpo’ in spanish)
- El Cimarrón – (best coffee and locally sourced organic foods)
- Boné Ma (western style coffee shop – best English breakfast)
From Seafood to Steak: Miramar and Playa
Miramar, a neighborhood known for its upscale residences and embassies, is home to some of Havana’s finest restaurants. Marea is one such restaurant, offering a refined dining experience with stunning views of the sea.
Marea is known for its fresh seafood, serving up dishes like grilled lobster and ceviche. The elegant decor and attentive service make Marea a popular choice for special occasions.
Paseo Marítimo, also located in Miramar, offers breathtaking views of the sea. This bespoke tiki inspired container village is a great place to sit with a pizza, drink and just watch the waves roll in. While it can get rowdy at night, Paseo Marítimo has a chilled out vibe in the afternoon. To get there, it’s about 15 minutes from Old Havana and you will need to take a taxi or a La Nave.
But if you are out in Miramar and you want something more substantial to eat than pizza, give Toros & Tapas a try. Like most restaurants out this way it’s set in a restored colonial house on a quiet street one block back from the water.
As the name would suggest, Toros & Tapas has got fantastic Spanish cuisine. And the bartenders at Toros & Tapas are probably Havana’s finest when it comes to bespoke cocktails. It’s 6 blocks from Paseo Maritimo and 2 blocks from the Italian Embassy.
Now, if you do have access to La Nave (Cuba’s Uber) you can easily head out to Miramar and Playa for only a couple of dollars. Yet you can also do the same in the other direction from Havana and visit Guanabacoa and it surrounds. You can visit places like Finca Vista Hermosa, 45 minutes from Havana for less than $12.
3 Best Restaurants in the Miramar & Playa Suburbs of Havana
Here’s the three best restaurants in Miramar and Playa, ranked according to their food quality and the photo opportunities they provide. Now, for second and third place it’s a bit of a tie. Paseo Maritimo has the view and vibe, while Toros & Tapas has the better food and cocktails. So visit all three if you can.
Still unsure where to eat in Havana? Take a food Tour!
For those of you who may still be unsure of where to eat or what to try, I suggest booking a food tour. The Havana Street Food Tour below is run by a collective of local Cuban foodies who all speak perfect English.
As natives of Havana they can not only show you what and where to eat in Havana, they can also advise you on any changes to menu items across the city based on seasonal availability of ingredients and the ever present menace of Cuban shortages.
When I took the tour, one of the most fascinating aspects, at least for me, was learning about the different ingredients substituted into popular dishes when key ingredients become unavailable. For example, I bet you didn’t know that you could fry eggs in flat leftover beer, as a replacement for certain seasonings.
Take the Havana Street Food Tour below to learn about the fascinating way Cuban’s deal with shortages and adapt their recipes over time.
Safety Note: Food Hygiene In Cuba
Before I conclude this guide I need to provide you, my readers, with a note on food safety and food hygiene in Cuba. As a ‘developing’ country, food hygiene and food safety aren’t always top of mind for cooks in Cuba.
I’ve seen a ‘chef’ picking his nose while smoking a cigarette and cooking someones meal. And I’ve had the Cuban equivalent of ‘Bali belly’ more times than I can count as a result of foods that had ingredients that were well past their use-by date.
If you’ve read some of my other articles on food in Cuba you will know that shortages and hoarding are a problem in Cuba. And that certain foods shouldn’t be eaten on the island (no matter where they come from). But to reiterate some of those rules here:
- Only eat where you see a crowd of upperclass locals or tourists (high turnover of goods)
- Don’t eat hamburgers anywhere in Cuba
- Don’t eat any meat you can’t identify (unless its from a restaurant above)
- Beware of drinks containing ice in rural areas
- Don’t drink water direct from the tap anywhere in Cuba
- Avoid long life foods unless they’re in a vacuum sealed bag
- When unsure of what you’re eating, offer the first piece to a nearby Cuban – if they run for the bin to spit it out, you should not eat it either.
Havana’s culinary scene is as diverse and vibrant as the city itself. From traditional Cuban dishes to international cuisine, there is something to satisfy every palate. Whether you’re exploring the narrow streets of Old Havana or enjoying the nightlife in Vedado, Miramar or Playa, you’ll find an array of restaurants offering unique flavors and experiences.
La Guarida, Ivan Chef Justo, Costa Vino, Toros & Tapas, La Reserva, Casa Mia Paladar, Yarini, Jibaro, El Cafe, Jama – Asian Inspired Restaurant, ChaChaCha Bar, Antojos, Marea, El Cimarron, Paseo Marítimo and El Idilio are just a few of the best restaurants in Havana Cuba that should be on your culinary itinerary.
So, pack your bags, book your flights, organise your travel insurance and get a VPN. Then go and indulge in the flavors of Havana. It’s a culinary experience that’s like no other.
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 Complete Guide To Cuba will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination where you can just arrive unprepared.
Read the most Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba here.