Where to Eat in Havana, Cuba

I was really worried about the food situation in Havana. I had read online that most of the restaurants weren’t great, and that the food was super bland pretty much anywhere that you went. However, I’m happy to say that I found that this was not true!

I ate at several different restaurants while in Old Havana, and had excellent experiences at all of them. My personal favorite was a restaurant called El Teniente del Rey, but every single one of the restaurants that I ate at was very good! Here’s a list of the restaurants that I visited and that I would recommend.

El Teniente Del Rey

This was hands down my favorite restaurant that I ate at while in Havana! It’s very centrally located on the street, El Teniente Del Rey (yes, the street and the restaurant share the same name). It translates to, “lieutenant of the king.” On my first day in Havana, I did the free walking tour, and at the end, this was one of the restaurants that my guide ended up recommending. I’m so glad I listened to him and checked it out!

We went in at around 3p on a Friday, and we had the entire restaurant to ourselves! Maybe just because it was a random time? I wouldn’t be surprised if this place gets packed, as it is relatively small and in a great location. It was amazing, and the service was fantastic! The restaurant is open air, and open to the street, however, halfway through our meal the waitress closed the door because a cat kept coming in to beg.

My guide had recommended the seafood at this restaurant, and I decided that I should get seafood, if that was what he suggested! I ordered a chef’s special, which was grilled fish, lobster, and shrimp, served with white rice and some veggies. I also decided to order myself a pina colada!

Everything was absolutely amazing. I’m not normally a huge shrimp person, and thought that of everything, I would end up not eating the shrimp. Boy was I wrong! I scarfed all of the shrimp down. I also devoured the fish and the rice. Surprisingly, I didn’t love the lobster, but I think that was just me. I shared a meal with another solo traveler, and she ordered the exact same dish, and she ate ALL of the lobster. Also, I had filled up on the rice and simply didn’t have room for the lobster.

Just LOOK at this masterpiece.

The pina colada was also excellent! Almost every single drink that I had while in Cuba was uber-strong. They’re really heavy handed when it comes to liquor! At El Teniente Del Rey, though, I didn’t find the pina colada to be too strong. It was just as delicious as my meal was!

Dreaming of this pina colada.

The best part of the meal was the cost! Although it was one of the most expensive meals I ate while in Cuba, it was definitely worth it. I believe that my drink cost 4CUC (1CUC=.87USD). My entire meal cost 15CUC, and it was a ton of food. I definitely think it was worth it. Here in Chicago, that same meal would’ve cost me easily $25-30, if not more. It was incredibly reasonable, the food was delicious, and the service was fantastic! I definitely recommend this place.

El Dandy

El Dandy was recommended to me by a friend of a friend, and it did not disappoint. This was actually the first dinner that I ate in Cuba!

It’s actually located less than a block away from El Teniente Del Rey, on the same street. Super convenient. When I approached El Dandy to attempt to eat there, I found the doors closed. I tried to open them, and a man came out and informed me that there was a meeting occurring at the moment, but the restaurant would reopen in 30 minutes if I wanted to come back then.

I wasn’t starving, so I decided to just come back in a half hour. This “meeting” was occurring at 6p on a Thursday! I found it interesting, there were no signs or anything up about it.

In a half hour, I returned and was seated immediately. Upon arrival, fresh popcorn is served to the table (complimentary). I ate two bowls of it! Oops. I ordered pork tacos (carnitas), and they were absolutely delicious. One thing I noted is that in Cuba, cheese is not easy to come by! I ordered tacos or taco-like dishes multiple times, and none ever came with cheese. The pork tacos that I got were simply pork, chopped onions, and cilantro, on corn tortillas. They were so good!

Please excuse the blurry image, I was itching to dig in!

I decided to live on the wild side and try a drink that my tour guide that morning had recommended. Called canchanchara, this is supposedly the “drink of Cuba.” I heard that said about many drinks while over there, so maybe take that with a grain of salt! Canchanchara is rum, lime, honey, and ice. Super simple. El Dandy makes it STRONG. Holy smokes! I didn’t even get through half of it.

A super blurry pic of my drink!

El Dandy was super scrumptious, very affordable, and the service was excellent! I paid less than 16CUC for my dinner (tacos), and a water and canchanchara.

5 Sentidos

This was without a doubt, the fanciest place that I dined at in Cuba! I was staying nearby, and walking past, it looked nice. So I thought that I would try it. It was really fancy, especially considering the nearby places that I dined at.

Unlike most other places that I dined, this place was NOT open air, and the doors remained closed and guarded by an employee so that randoms didn’t just wander in and ruin the fancy ambience. It reminded me of a fancy Italian restaurant, with fine white tablecloths, wine glasses, and heavy silverware.

I dined at 5 Sentidos at around 7p on a Tuesday, and the place was relatively empty. There were maybe 3 other groups dining, and I seemed to be the only person in my waiter’s section. The service was insane.

I sat down and was immediately served a drink on the house (I have no idea what it was, and it was definitely not something I would’ve ordered myself! Very fruity). I ordered a water and checked out the menu.

It was also slightly pricier than I expected, with most of the entrees pricing at around 15CUC (close to what El Teniente Del Rey cost). However, the prices weren’t bad at all! I decided to order a super cheap meal only because I was totally running out of CUC and really didn’t want to have to change any more money.

I ordered the pork sirloin, and it cost 9.50CUC. It was a great amount of food, for that price, too! It was served with arancini, and those were delicious as well. The pork sirloin was served with a type of citrus sauce, and I was surprised by how much I liked it.

I mentioned that the service was phenomenal? I ordered and had my food in probably less than 15 minutes. Then, because my waiter had nothing better to do, the minute the last bite of pork was in my mouth, he swooped in with a container of toothpicks.

The good service/empty restaurant was both a blessing and a curse. I loved how quickly I got my food and the check, etc., but at the same time, it made me uncomfortable because he essentially watched me eat my entire meal. He literally had nothing other to do than stand and watch and make sure to be ready if I needed something. I guess that’s not terrible, it just made me slightly uncomfortable!

This was one of the few restaurants that I ate at in Old Havana that had a dessert menu! The desserts all looked and sounded phenomenal, but due to my budget constraints, I had to pass. My entire dinner (water+pork), cost about 13CUC. The cost, ambience, and speedy service make this place totally worth a stop!

Habana 252

As I mentioned above, the food/dining situation in Havana made me nervous. Because of this, before I came to Havana, I had restaurants in mind based on extensive Googling to see what places had the best reviews and what people recommended. Habana 252 was NOT on my pre-approved list of places, but I tried it anyways. And I’m glad I did!

When I was searching for internet near my Airbnb, I found that Parque Cervantes was the best and closest place. The first night that I went to sit there and use the internet, I walked past Habana 252, and it piqued my interest.

I sat down in the park and observed the restaurant while doing some quick googling. I actually had a hard time finding it on the maps (you have to zoom in a lot), and it had less than 10 reviews, although all were good. I decided to take a chance on it, and wandered on over.

Like many restaurants in La Habana Vieja, Habana 252 is really small. Oh, and it gets it’s name from the fact that the address is 252. I would assume it also gets the name because it is in La Habana Vieja, near Habana, the street. I was offered the option of sitting at the bar for drinks, or going upstairs for food. I was obviously there for food, so upstairs I went.

The best part of Habana 252 (aside from the food, service, and cost), is that it’s so close to Parque Cervantes, you can actually pick up the ETECSA wifi! This means you can have wifi while you eat, which is a total game changer. Almost no restaurants in Cuba have wifi available.

Super cute little eating area upstairs!

The upstairs was a pleasant surprise! It was super cute and very instagrammable! I was highly impressed. I was the only person dining (7p on a Monday), and so the service was insanely quick. I was in and out in less than 40 minutes, and was reminded of dining at a busy Chicago restaurant during the lunch rush. The service is quick, excellent, and the food is delicious!

Arguably one of the best meals I had while in Cuba.

I ordered ropa vieja. I had been in Cuba for almost a week and had yet to have the iconic dish! It definitely did not disappoint. And it was less than 10CUC! They do have a Happy Hour special on Monday nights (I believe it’s 50% off drinks before 6p), but I was there after 6p, so I missed out on this deal.

Habana 252 is definitely a hidden gem! I totally recommend this place, and honestly, I almost went back there a second time. The only reason I didn’t was because I needed to try more places!

O’Reilly 304

This restaurant was another restaurant that was recommended to me by a friend of a friend. However, on top of that, it was also recommended by several of my guides. I’m also really glad that I checked out this place. It was delicious!

I dined in for lunch around 1p on a Tuesday. I was seated immediately in the upstairs area, and was thrilled to find out that my waitress spoke fluent English! If you’ve been to Cuba, you know that finding English is a novelty. Especially finding someone who is fluent in English. I was so excited!

I was in a huge hurry, as I was running late in my plans, and I needed to get to my art lesson at 2p. Luckily it was only a few blocks away. I was really happy with the speedy service at O’Reilly 304. Like many places in Havana, it’s kind of a hole in the wall with terrible signage. I almost walked into the wrong restaurant trying to find it!

The waitress brought the menu and I just ordered a water. I loved the look of the funky water glasses, but I found them very hard to drink out of due to the shape and the thickness of the glass. They serve you chips (delicious!) and salsa which is complimentary. I chowed down on that while perusing the menu. On a whim, I decided to just try the O’Reilly Tacos. There was no real description on the menu, and I decided to just go for it.

They serve you a TON of food. It was seriously a ridiculous amount of food, and it was seriously messy. If you want dainty, ladylike food, this is not the place for you. At the end of my meal, I was a wreck. I’m sure I looked a sight while devouring my food! The service was also super quick, I was in and out in 45 minutes. I was impressed.

What made me love this place the most (despite the fact that the waitress spoke English), was that when I was presented with the check, she also gave me a beautiful lily! I almost never get flowers, so any time that I’m given a flower, it makes my whole day, if not my whole week. I was smiling from ear to ear as I walked out. My bill for the water and the tacos was around 13CUC, so not bad at all! This is another place that I would totally have visited again.

Jesus Maria 20

This was the very first place that I ate at in Havana! I booked an amazing Airbnb Experience, and this was the meeting place. I wasn’t anticipating ordering a meal, but upon arrival, I found the other participant ordering a meal, so I decided to eat, too.

The restaurant is super cute and colorful!

Jesus Maria 20 is a bit more off the beaten path. It’s located in San Isidro, the Arts District of Old Havana. It’s not far from everything else at all, though, and it’s very walkable. It’s such a cute place!

We ate on the upper level, which is really quite nice. Our Airbnb host told us that the restaurant opened recently, and is relatively new. It was all excellent! I ordered the burger, and it only cost around 6CUC! It was served with chips, and the burger itself was delicious.

My burger and chips.

I’m really glad I visited this place! It’s super cute and instagrammable, and also located right by the water, which was nice. I totally recommend it!

All of the restaurants I ate at were delicious! Don’t be afraid of the food situation like I was, it’s really not nearly as scary as my research and online sources made it out to be!