Paladares are the best option to enjoy a delightful meal while visiting Cuba. They are the result of the imaginary and creativity of Cuban families that decided to take the big step and become entrepreneurs. Each one of them offers a distinctive concept of what Cuban culinary art should be.
But…what is a paladar?
Back in the nighties, there was a Brazilian’s soap opera called Vale Todo (Worth everything) that became very popular in the country. The protagonist was Raquel Accioli, a women that had been left in poverty by her ambitious daughter. Despite the countless temptations life puts in her way, she decided to earn money honestly selling sandwiches at the beach. Her initiative resulted so lucrative that years later she is the owner of a group of restaurants called Paladar. Soon after the transmission of the series, the inhabitants of The Biggest Island of the Antilles started modifying their houses to create their own food businesses too. Paladars are a metaphor of Cubans’ resiliency and inventive.
In Spanish, the word paladar means palate. It signals Cubans’ commitment to produce a lasting impression with comforting and succulent dishes. The new establishments were born as an alternative to the limited food offer, high prices and bad quality service of state-owned restaurants in Havana. Places were small and simple, but full of authentic flavors. And they definitely had a future.
Paladares in Havana: a surprising delight
After years of sacrifice and resistance, these unique Cuban conceptions are more present than ever in every corner of the island. Licensed by the government under strict conditions, they still offer a great variety of styles and senses. Paladares can be luxurious, colorful and modern, or minimalist but, don’t doubt it, these private businesses proposing a mixture of culture and dreams are the best way to satisfy visitants’ inner-most food desires.
Now picture yourself planning a getaway with Espiritu Travel and then starting your first tour with one of our guides. You will not only walk the part of Old Havana that few visitors see, the real Havana, but also you will receive the typical welcome to a Cuban home: a great mojito and a surprising dinner.
5 cozy paladares you shouldn’t miss in Old Havana
Simplicity can be magical. That’s way we didn’t want to present you large and super famous places. Meet the 5 cozy paladares that even with their limited space will stand out of the crowd and make you come back for more.
Located in Teniente Rey Street between Aguacate and Compostela, Paladar Sarrá owns his name to one of the most important characters of Havana’s XIX and XX century. Ernesto Sarrá was the head of the pharmaceutic industry in Cuba, and he possessed so many properties that we can still find his golden rubric all around the city. Sarrá Paladar itself used to be one of them, afterwards it became a family house and today it combines a rustic appearance with a wonderful criollo menu.
From the hands of a young and lovely service, you can enjoy the best malanga fries- a tuber that you will find mainly in Cuba- accompanied with honey. Golden, salty and soft, a single bite will flood your mouth with sensations. The fresh terrace complete the home-like experience. We recommend you to choose the minced beef seasoned a la cubana, the roasted pork in peanut and tamarind sauce and to finish the Copa Lolita (homemade Flan with two scoops of ice cream).
Venamí, means Come to me in Spanish, and that’s precisely the slogan they want to promote. Placed in a very busy area of Old Havana (Monserrate #465), it is the perfect place to share food and experiences. A talkative and friendly service, a collage of classical American and Italian images of the past decades, and sense of calm and happiness are waiting for you. Specialized in Italian food, the little paladar offers a carefully prepared selection of creams, salads, pizzas and pastas, however there is also room for a tasty fish with lemon and a roasted chicken breast.
Our meal starts with a wonderful focaccia accompanied by an incredible pesto sauce and spices. Then, while you refresh with a Bucanero beer the spectacle begins, an Italian fest with a Cuban family: lasagnas, spaghetti, calzone are prepared before your eyes with dedication and talent. It is not a casualty that hundreds of Espiritu Travel’s clients remember the Venamí with pleasure. It always results as they say: Come to me, and you will come back for more.
In Old Havana, the name of every street is an assortment of history and superstition and Lamparilla is not the exception. It tells the story of an old little lamp that used to enlighten constantly the area as a gift for the devoted souls. Today, the paladar occupying the number 361 is the lamparilla (little lamp in Spanish) that attract visitants from all over the world with a fusion of gastronomic styles.
The street receives us with the shadow of tens of floating umbrellas. The kindness and youth of the service create a nice contrast with the amazing retro decoration. Lamparilla 361 is fashioned with artefacts from the first half of the XX century and, they still work!: a Frigidaire cooler and the cash register we use to find in Havana’s old bodegas, are just some of the surprises waiting for our clients. There are even particular ashtrays to enjoy cigars in the smokers’ area. It is the perfect mix of modern and antique, gourmet and popular…
Therefore, seat tight and prepare yourself to be charmed by the octopus with chopped garlic, one-in-a-bite croquets and a casserole of Cuban vegetables that is a party for the eyes and the tong. And we are sure you won’t miss the beer served in aluminum old cups or the piña colada in a reconstructed glass skull. Come with Espiritu Travel to the paladar were a meal become a holiday.
Some say it comes from Latin, meaning vessel or ship. Truth is many of our clients dream with repeating NaO’s culinary passage. Located at final section of the populous Obispo Street, the paladar offers three irresistible experiences: a fresh and musical alley, perfect for informal dinners, a hall prepared for romantic afternoons and an upstairs private chamber ideal for a business’ meeting.
It’s not only the attractive vintage decoration which turn it in an authentic and unique place. The harmony of the service and the happiness they offer in every dish are NaO paladar’s real treasure. Within the suggestions you will find distinctive Cuban plates as an option for vegetarian and vegan customers. Try the guava empanadas, the black beans hummus and the pumpkin fries. But if you dare to live the full experience, book your trip with Espiritu Travel and be prepared to enjoy a Cuban delicacy while receiving the sea breeze: underground roasted pork in guava hot coal. Words cannot describe it!
According to a legend from the first residents of Cienfuegos (a province of Cuba), the Tatagua butterfly is the soul of a woman transformed by the Spirit of Good. Aipirí, the beautiful native who preferred dances and fests to take care of her children, today flies home after home remembering others the beauty of motherhood. The magic of this traditional story sheens in every wall of the paladar founded in Prado #115 between Refugio and Genios.
Tatagua Paladar spoil us as a lovely mother. From the artistic venue and the exquisite selection of cocktails to the mix of Latin, Spanish and autochthonous cuisines, everything captivates visitors with the grace and warmth of Cuba. You have the opportunity to discover Old Havana with our Espiritu Travel’s guides. Then, we propose you to finish the evening among typical dishes from all over the country: chatinos with garlic, sleeping black beans, smoked pork in Oshun sauce, pineapple chicken. And… we shouldn’t forget the fantastic musical group, Tatagua likes to please you and Aipirí’s spirit.
Are you ready to visit this island full of traditions and delights? Contact Espiritu Travel service and plan your next getaway into the culture and charm of Cuba.