Yup, last month’s trip to Havana of course resulted in a level of indulgence of food, drink and cigars that I’m generally not able to pull off here at home. At the end of a week in Havana, the body is generally aching and retching from the overload of many rich foods, drink, tobacco smoke and such.
With various friends generally in attendance, I hit a number of favoured spots, and some new ones as well…
1. The back terrace of the Hotel Nacional. Can’t beat getting a cappuccino here first thing in the morning, enjoying a mellow Monsdale or another smooth cigar, and relaxing through a nice breezy wake-up in the AM after a long night. Similarly, a great spot to meet everyone pre-supper for a cigar and a mojito, or likewise to have a nightcap of a Cuba Libre / Cubata and a panini-grilled Cubano sandwich. It’s a must-go location for me.
2. Espacios. This trip, many great times to start and/or finish off good nights with many friends took place here at Espacios, a newer spot in Miramar – a definite thanks to Nino and others for guiding me to this spot. Feels like a great backyard summertime party, with the outdoor garden seating, low-volume music, and outdoor / backyard brick oven. Lots of drinks enjoyed here – Cuba Libres and/or Cubatas were always refreshing and perfect, service was great with the staff there. A nice bar without too much pretenses or pressure. Doesn’t feel like how some spots have turned more and more into “meat markets”, hounding for the almighty dollar.
Not sure if I discussed it before, but at Espacios, I had a good series of conversations with Punch Joe. One of those times, he explained to us that only a week before the Festival Habanos kicked off, the government changed some of the rules for bars. Namely, private bars / restaurants are supposed to close / stop serving at 3am now, but state-run locations can still choose to stay open until 6am. Ha!!! Fie, I say!!!
3. Tic-Tac Boquitas / El Rejoneo. What a great little spot. Nino turned a bunch of us on to this during last November’s trip, and I made sure to indulge a couple of times during this one. One of the best things there is the hamburger and cheese boq’s – simply amazing (they didn’t have shrimp available for the shrimp-and-blue-cheese one when I was there). Fatty and juicy beef (hell, could have been pork, for how juicy it was and lighter-coloured it was, compared to our Canadian beef). Grilled onions and a kind of green pepper, serrano-ham-style bacon, and cheese (like a spiced Gouda without the seeds – very tart). All piping hot from being cooked in an outdoor brick over and on soft and crusty fresh bread. Amazing. Juicy. All for only 2 CUC’s each! I ordered 3 because I thought they were the 1/2-size ones we got in November – instead got 3 of the full-size / giant ones. Stuffed myself, packed up one, brought it back to my room – made an EXCELLENT “Taco Bell” substitute for the drunk-munchies at 5:20 am!!! LOL.
4. La Fontana. I’ve actually never ate there before. And, in reality, I didn’t do so again. I was delayed in meeting up with the Fox- and European-group, and when I arrived, they were just finishing up eating…gasp…duck. While it was apparently amazing, I decided to pass after the experience of a BOTL Aussie traveller in November. I easily sustained myself on Cuba Libres and flan. But, we had some good drinks there, and any place is good in my mind if they manage to make nudie art somewhat intriguing and tasteful.
5. That-for-which-I’ve-forgotten-the-name. (EDIT – it’s “El Chanchullero” as Nino corrected in a comment below.) A great little lunch spot hidden around the block at the Capitolio – if I remember correctly, it’s just east of the corner of Teniente Rey and Bernaza, about 3 blocks east of the Capitolio. Nino corrected my broken Spanish reading skills, and informed us that this place makes a big deal out of NOT being a place that Hemingway has visited (grantedly obvious, considering it’s brand new). Was told this place is extremely popular for the hipper locals with higher means, and travellers that are in the know. Extremely inexpensive, but fresh and delicious-in-its-simplicity. Tapas and beef stirfy with salad. Presidente beer from the DR, and followed by an espresso after the meal. Wonderful. Just watch out for the steep stairs.
More to come shortly…