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This city isn't known for fine food, and eating out in Havana can be disappointing if you don't know where to go. There are two kinds of restaurants in Havana: government-run and privately-owned. The state-run restaurants have improved dramatically since the country reopened to tourism and tend to be cheaper, but the independent restaurants, called paladares, are often the best place to go for good food and lively atmosphere.
Restaurants in Havana lack the international variety of many other large cities. You won't find great Asian, French or Italian, but the Cuban and Creole options make up for it at restaurants like La Cecilia or La Fontana Habana.
There are a few fast-food chains, including El Rápido, which serves burgers, pizzas, fried chicken, and other watered-down options. For something a little fresher look out for Pain de Paris outlets, which bake bread and croissants, and offer a variety of sandwiches.
While dining out is beyond the reach of most Cubans, there will often be a second, higher-priced, menu for tourists. Be sure to ask for prices before ordering. Scams are common in Havana's restaurants so be sure to check your bill for extras that may appear. Some restaurants may add a service charge, if not then generous tipping of at least 10 percent is customary and appreciated.
Paladar La Fontana Habana
Local / 3ra A, esq. 46, No. 305, Miramar
After the Cuban government issued a law allowing the creation of small businesses in 1993, two young university students, Horacio and Ernesto, combined their love of Cuban food and entrepreneurial skills to create La Fontana Habana. Located in one of Havana's trendiest neighbourhoods, the stylish La Fontana offers classic Cuban dishes fused with international favourites and specialises in grilled meat and seafood. Start with the Ceviche scented with sweet basil or the octopus grilled over charcoal with pesto, dive into brochettes of chicken with fruits and bacon, or fish scented with aged rum and herbs before ending off with guava shells with cheese. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Bookings recommended.
International / Calle Concordia # 418, Entre Gervasio y Escobar
One of Havana's most popular restaurants, La Guardia has welcomed many a celebrity and is an institution in the city's dining scene. Not always the easiest restaurant for visitors to find: once you ascend the cracked marble staircase, you're on the right track to discovering one of Havana's culinary gems. This charmingly intimate eatery's nooks and crannies are always buzzing with activity and the atmosphere is enchanting. Dishes such as rabbit lasagne, pork in ginger plum sauce, spinach crepes and tuna stuffed peppers tantalise the taste buds while the friendly and efficient wait staff tend to your every need. For a seriously romantic night out, request the balcony table for an intimate dinner with views over the neighbourhood. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Booking essential.
Prado Y Neptuno
Italian / Corner Paseo de Mart� & Neptuno, Centro Habana
The popularity of the pizzas at Prado Y Neptuno would have you thinking the chefs were from Italy, but this spacious and intimate Italian restaurant with dark tinted windows and colourful tiles features delicious fare with everything from pizza and pasta to meat, chicken and seafood dishes to tantalise the taste buds. The bar at the entrance is a good place to kick off your dining experience and there is a good selection of Italian wines. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Bookings recommended.
Creole / 5ta. Ave. entre 110 y 112, Miramar (Opposite Servi-Cupet gas station)
Named after the novel by Cuban author Cirilo Valverde, this delightful garden restaurant featuring caged parrots overhead and romantic tables laid-out under thatched-roof garden specialises in mostly Cuban cuisine with special attention to dishes with lobster and steak. The menu is delicious and offers plenty of seafood and traditional Creole dishes, such as Roast Suckling Pig or Congrí Rice. On certain nights live music entertains diners and keeps the atmosphere buzzing well into the night for a dining experience to remember. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Bookings recommended.
Meson de La Chorrera
Spanish / Malecon between Calles 18 & 20, Vedado
Specialising in simple Creole dishes and tapas and, boasting plenty of colonial Spanish flavour, Mesón La Chorrera is situated by the seaside in an old fortified tower built in the 17th century and old cannons can still be found pointing through the loopholes in the dining room. An outdoor terrace provides the option to dine on delicious Spanish influenced dishes and the restaurant sometimes features live music. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Bookings recommended.