EATING AND DRINKING OUT IN CUBA:
Eating in Cuba is (almost) always a feast. With the exception of State owned restaurants – where the unreasonably expensive food (ok, unreasonable is a big word in Cuba, but you get the point) may taste like microwaved school cafeteria left overs – anything else you may have will be a feast for your taste buds.
Street food includes:
- Pizzas: which are as cheap as 20 MN, that is even less than a CUC. It may not be the pizza you are used to, but it is made to order, warm, crispy and tasty.
- Fresh fruit.
- Guarapo juice: sugar cane juice, but add some lime juice to break the sweetness.
- Fried platains and yucca.
- Cucuruchu: a sweet made of candied orange peel, honey, nuts, coconut and what not, wrapped up in a banana leaf.
- The good old ice cream.
Cubans have an obsession for Coppelia, a chain ice cream parlor where for as cheap as 4 cents you can have a bowl of tasteless ice cream.
If you want the real stuff, look for private places (follow around the people walking with a cone). Coffee tastes way stronger than your average espresso: be prepared to smell the roasted beans from a distance.
Let’s cut to the chase though, and imagine you have already had a good mojito and are ready to get stuffed.
WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT IN CUBA:
Go to a paladar and you can have a feast. Keep in mind that meat is not common in Cuba : cows are used to cultivate the land and are generally state property and horses are used to pull carriages.
You may have the odd chicken or lamb; at times pork. You can bet they will be free range: they most likely are the same chickens that will wake you up early in the morning, even in the Vedado in Havana, and that you can see scratching about in the main squares of a pretty city next to dogs (left free to roam most of the time, but they are normally well taken care of: Cubans love their pets).
Or the same pigs that the neighbors of your casa particular keep in their backyard in Trinidad, effusing a close to the nauseating stench in the entire area.
The good news is that if you love seafood you will have a feast: it is so tasty, that you will never miss meat anyways. If you are in Baracoa, do not skip the shrimps, octopus or lobster in coconut sauce: a sweet yet spicy and rich sauce, mix it with white rice, ask for extra bread on the side and you will leave Baracoa hoping you will eventually go back just to savor that one more time.
Prices for meals in paladares vary. From as little as 5 CUC for a great meal in Cienfuegos, to a more expensive meal (up to 25 CUC) in more touristy Trinidad or Viñales.
Drinks are good. No matter what. Ok, maybe you will be tired of having just that one kind of beer (which curiously states in the can: “best beer in Cuba” – of course it is the best! It also is the only one!).
But cocktails are of a different world. For as much effort as you can put, each day you will end up craving that delicious mojito, or that pina colada made from scratch, because really, that hierba buena is nothing like mint, and Cubans are not fussy about the procedure.
No matter what, you can be sure that your cocktail will be delicious. But watch out: don’t drink too much. Cubans hold their drink well. And they will take advantage of you if they see you are a bit tipsy and not 100% in control.