Grumpy Camel


8 Havana Cafés that Serve Delicious Food & Drinks

Havana’s food scene is rather underrated. Many travellers would even say that it’s non-existent. After spending a week in an all-inclusive beach resort in Varadero, I wasn’t sure what to expect in Havana. I had heard many negative things about Cuban food before my trip to Cuba, so I braced myself for a week of bland dishes and possible tummy aches.  

However, eating out in Havana turned out to be a real delight. Not only did my husband and I get to try a variety of delicious Cuban dishes and street food, but we also discovered some truly amazing cafes and restaurants in Havana.

Here are some of the best cafes in Havana.

TIP: You can find two types of restaurants in Cuba: state-owned and private (known as paladares). Paladares tend to have better service and food than state-owned restaurants. Check out this post for more facts about Cuba.

Cafe Bohemia | Best Cafes in Havana
Lunch at Cafe Bohemia. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Cafes in Old Havana

1. Café Bohemia  

Situated in the colourful Plaza Vieja, Café Bohemia is known for its signature sandwiches and home-made juices. The menu is inspired by the works of authors and film-makers who have been fascinated by Cuba. You can enjoy an ensalada called Guantanamera and a baguette called The Old Man and the Sea, while sipping a refreshing, mixed fruit juice. The outdoor seating is set up in a cosy courtyard with white-washed walls and blue windows and balconies.  

What to have:

I had the Havana Black baguette, which is filled with hummus, tomatoes, lettuce and olives, while my meat-loving husband ordered a burger (which was one of the day’s specials). Both were very good. I also recommend trying the pineapple and mint juice or the mint, lime and honey juice.  

El Dandy | Best Cafes in Havana
Limonada frappe from El Dandy. Photo by Daniela Frendo

2. El Dandy  

This quirky café is a popular place for breakfast, as well as being known for its delicious cocktails. Its quaint design and vintage furniture pay tribute to the 1960s. You can also buy original art and tote bags here. Just pop in for a quick bite or a refreshing drink – they make lovely lemonade and coffee.  

O'Reilly 304 | Best Cafes in Havana
Salad from O’Reilly 304. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

3. O’Reilly 304  

Another trendy café in the heart of Old Havana, O’Reilly 304 serves some lovely, innovative dishes and possibly the best lemonade in Havana. The café has a wonderful vibe, especially in the evening.  

What to have:

O’Reilly 304 is knows for its delicious tacos, however we opted for something different. I had a nice green salad, which proved to be a refreshing dish on a hot day. My husband had what looked like chicken curry spaghetti. We both enjoyed our lunch, but the cherry on the cake was the super delicious lemonade which had all sorts of tropical fruits in it.  

Ropa Vieja in Havana
Ropa Vieja from Esto No Es Un Cafe. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

4. Esto No Es Un Café  

If you want to try a typical Cuban dish while you’re in Havana, I highly recommend heading to this paladar for the popular ropa vieja. This wonderful dish consists of pulled beef stewed with onions and peppers. Esto No Es Un Café serves ropa vieja with yucca, a root vegetable that tastes like sweet potato. The dishes at this paladar pay tribute to great artworks – the owner used to be a curator at a local art gallery before opening the café.

What to have:

The ropa vieja at Esto No Es Un Café was by far the best meal that Douglas and I had in Havana.  

El Escorial | Best Cafes in Havana
Coffee from El Escorial. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

5. Café El Escorial  

Café El Escorial in Plaza Vieja is famous for its freshly brewed coffee. They serve a variety of brews, so you can sip a latte or an alcoholic coffee while enjoying beautiful views of the square.

El Escorial also sells coffee beans that are harvested in the mountains of Escambray in central Cuba. This place tends to be busy, so if you want to buy coffee beans from El Escorial before leaving Havana, don’t leave it to the last minute as you might be out of luck.  

Tabarish | Best Cafes in Havana
Tamales at Tabarish. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

6. Tabarish  

This bar highlights Cuba’s relations with Russia in both its decor and dishes. The menu is made up of a mix of popular Cuban and Russian dishes and drinks. Tabarish has a nice, lively atmosphere, and it’s the perfect place for a hearty meal and a nice cocktail.  

What to have:

If you want to try a typically Cuban dish, the tamales de maiz served at Tabarish are simply divine. The ribs here are also very tasty.  

Cafe Mamaine | Best Cafes in Havana
Tapas at Cafe Mamaine. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Cafes in Vedado

Vedado is an urban neighbourhood in Havana which is less touristy than Habana Vieja. We stayed at the NH Capri in Vedado, which is close to the Malecon and surrounded by a variety of bars and restaurants.  

7. Café Mamainé  

This café is housed in a gorgeous, old house. The furniture and decorations are made from recycled objects. We immediately fell in love with Café Mamaine on our first visit and returned to this café twice for an early dinner. The café has a cosy terrace and it appears to be a very popular place among young Cubans.  

What to have:

We loved the tapas at Café Mamaine and always ordered the same dishes. I highly recommend the tostones rellenos, pork scratchings (which are freshly fried), and the plate with olives, cheese and ham. The lemonade here is also very nice.  

best cafes in havana
Lunch at California Cafe. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

8. California Café  

Douglas and I also fell in love with this vibrant, outdoor café in Vedado, and returned to the place several times for lunch. California Café serves a variety of vegetarian and vegan options, as well as delicious meat-based dishes. The service here is great (and so is the lemonade!)  

What to have:

If you want to eat something light, try the Brusqueta California or California Ensalada Verde. I also had some lovely vegetable rice served with fried plantain.    

Recommended Havana Guidebook

Best Havana Guidebook

This book was my second most loyal travel companion on my trip to Cuba (the first one being my husband). Instead of getting a guidebook by popular publishers, I decided to go for something a bit different. And I’m so glad I did.  

Thanks to The 500 Hidden Secrets of Havana, my husband and I discovered the best ropa vieja and limonada frappe in Havana, as well as some of the city’s lesser-known sites. The book is neatly divided into different sections, such as the best places for coffee, interesting markets and bookshops, best places for live music & many other hidden secrets.

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