Cheap Food in Old Havana
Cuban food is good. No matter what you’ve heard, it is good basic food. The cheapest and best Cuban food is found in Paladares, the locally-owned and run restaurants, the smaller Mom and Pop Restaurants. Rice and beans are served with every meat or seafood, so if you want cheap food in Havana, look for the paladares, or eat at your Casa Particular. If you want something different than Cuban food, you’ll have to go searching, like we did.
We found that there was a great range of prices at restaurants in Old Havana. Sometimes the cheapest restaurant would have the best food. Sometimes not.
Occasionally we found an Italian Restaurant or Chinese Restaurant, which was a nice change from Cuban food for every meal. There is nothing wrong with Cuban Food but as North Americans, we are spoiled with enjoying a wide variety of ethnic foods.
There are shops and restaurants all around the circumference of Plaza del Cristo (Parque Cristo), and since we lived nearby, this is where we found the cheapest restaurants in Old Havana that were not paladares.
Cafe El Dandy
One of the best restaurants was Cafe El Dandy on the corner of Villegas and Teniente.
You can look out on the activity in Parque Cristo just across from El Dandy.
Take note of the “napkins” wrapped around the cutlery – it is actually toilet paper, skillfully wrapped. Cubans are so inventive and ingenious at finding replacements for things they don’t have. This use of toilet paper napkins was common in other restaurants as well.
I had positively scrumptious slow-cook barbecue ribs with coleslaw and sweet potato fries for 10 CUC ($10 U.S.) at El Dandy. T, poor soul, had two small enchiladas with a tablespoon of black bean sauce, and 3 tablespoons of salsa for the same price.
If you go to El Dandy, say hello to the doorman, Xavier. You’ll make a good friend and get the best service too.
We also ate at El Chanchullero at the other end of Parque Cristo for half the price! The restaurant is hard to find, yet when you see it, you wonder how you missed it.
The portions were huge. T had fish with salad and buns and I had ribs with salad and buns. All delicious. The bill with 3 drinks and both meals was only 12 CUC – about half the cost of dinner at El Dandy. The music was 60’s music too, a little better for dinner music and quieter than the louder latin music at El Dandy.
El Chanchullero is one of the cheapest restaurants in Old Havana.
There are other restaurants around the square, one is called El Patchanka where you can get octopus for 7 CUC.
For the cheapest food near Parque Cristo, look hard and you will see a sign saying, La Familia. It is a tiny place kitty-corner from El Dandy. This is the peso restaurant that locals use. A slice of pizza is 20 CUP ($1 U.S.), same with a hamburger, and they were quite good.
All of these restaurants were clean and provided excellent service. In the park itself, settle down for some serious people-watching and picture-taking on a warm afternoon while snacking on a fresh-made Churro filled with cream or dulce de leche or chocolate. Two for 50c. Scrumptious.
There are many good eating spots in Havana, but these three were our top picks for best restaurants in Old Havana.