Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Cuba's best private restaurants forced to close
Anyone familiar with Havana's dining scene will tell you that the best experience in town is La Guarida (The Hideout, Concordia #418, e/ Gervasio y Escobar, Centro Habana)–a private restaurant, or paladar–in the heart of run-down Centro Habana. (See my blogpost: Havana's top paladar draws Hollywood's finest.) A-list patrons from the King and Queen of Spain, novelist Gabriel García Márquez, and movie actor Jack Nicholson, to yours truly ate here.
During my last visit to Havana in January, 2010, the restaurant was closed, ostensibly for renovation. In reality, the government had forced the enterprising owners, Enrique and Odeysis Nuñez, to cease operation. What's amazing is that the couple, who opened their restaurant in 1996, succeeded for more than a decade in the face of constant threat of fines from inspectors.
Cuba's government first permitted paladares (the word comes from the name of a Brazilian telenovela–soap opera) in 1994 to help resolve the island's food crisis. It did so through clenched teeth, however. In 1996 it stopped issuing licenses. As the economy has improved, the state has closed the majority of paladares throughout the country. Until recently, the best were still to be found in Havana, where 2009 was a grim year for those that remained.
Alas, my two other top-choice paladares in Havana were also recently closed.
First to go was Le Chansonnier (Calle J #259, e/ 15 y Línea), my favorite paladar of all, run by Héctor Higuera. Then Hurón Azul (Humboldt #153, esq. P, Vedado) shut down after its owner, Juan Carlos Fernández García, was accused by the government of having "obtained great sums of money which allowed him to maintain an extravagant lifestyle characterized by the acquisition of several houses, hundreds of works of art, appliances and frequent trips abroad, among other manifestations of undeserved enrichment." The government even released a huge PowerPoint show to support its claim against the crime of entrepreneurship, inspring Cuba's world-famous blogger Yoani Sánchez to comment (on her blog Generation Y): "I think about the old gentleman who looked after the cars at the entrance to the paladar, and the lady who washed the dishes, now left without work, and especially the children of Juan Carlos."
Not many quality paladares remain.
Traveling to Havana soon? Try the following quality paladares before they, too, disappear:
Restaurante Gringo Viejo, Calle 21 #454, e/ E y F, Vedado; tel. 07/831-1946
La Esperanza, Calle 16 #105, e/ 1ra y 3ra, Miramar; tel. 07/202-4361
Cocina de Lilliam, Calle 48 #1311, e/ 13 y 15, Miramar, tel. 07/209-6514
La Casa, Calle 30 #865, e/ 26 y 41, Nuevo Vedado; tel. 07/881-7000
For complete descriptions about these paladares, and travel in Havana, buy Moon Spotlight Havana
For further information about travel in Cuba, buy Moon Cuba
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker