Shortages of raw materials and a bureaucratized approach to food preparation in state-owned restaurants have produced many a mediocre meal, but with the privateer restaurants leading the way, Cuban cuisine is coming back. For the best cooking in Havana, seek out the paladares (privately owned establishments; the name, which literally means "palates," was cribbed from a popular Brazilian soap opera in which the heroine makes her fortune with a roadside restaurant named "El Paladar de Raquel"). Call ahead to reserve a table if you go to a paladar, and never believe a taxi driver who swears to you that the place is closed; he gets a commission for taking you to the place he is flacking for. The best state-run restaurants are El Abanico de Cristal in the Meliá Cohiba; La Cava de Vinos in the Giraldilla, part of the La Coronela complex way out west on Calle 222 (corner of Calle 37); Chez Emérito in the Hotel Presidente; the Aguiar in the Hotel Nacional; and El Floridita.
Need a break from the big city? View 42-hour itineraries from 13 cities.More
View deals in Havana for vacation packages, hotels, airfare, and more from our partners!More