From the throngs of American tourists and friends visiting Cuba in the last year, I've heard again and again that the food there is not so great. Cuban sandwiches, a few fine-dining restaurants that you "must" eat at, and lots of rum pretty much sum up the recommendations for navigating your three daily meals. But after personally visiting, I can tell you with confidence and a satisfied stomach that Havana's best restaurants are just waiting to be discovered. With a little research and an old-school map, you'll never go hungry. Make your reservations now.

Breakfast

El Dandy Bar y Galería via Facebook


El Café

Breakfast in general is not so easy to come by. Cuba is beautifully un-Americanized in that there aren't coffee shops on every street corner, and “breakfast to go” just doesn’t exist. So take a break and sit down at El Café in Old Havana. Platters of eggs and crispy bacon, banana pancakes, and yogurt with granola grace the chalkboard menu in this chic little joint. 

358 La Amargura, bet. El Cristo & Aguacate, Havana. +53 7 8613817; Facebook

 

El Dandy Bar y Galería

El Dandy is actually a tapas restaurant that makes the switch from breakfast spot to pre-dinner hangout without skipping a beat. Enjoy an omelet or fruit salad served with a killer cappuccino or morning cocktail like a Bloody Mary or a screwdriver. Or head over later in the day for generous portions of pulled chicken tacos (highly recommend), a cool indie playlist and strong mojitos.

Teniente Rey, at Villegas, Havana. +53 7 8676463; Facebook

 

Tapas

Lamparilla Tapas & Cervezas via Facebook


Van-Van

When the menu is individually written on vinyl records, you know you’ve found a unique retro gem in the heart of Old Havana. A bustling spot for bites and late-night drinks, Van-Van has multiple rooms for seating and a patio off the back that will almost make you feel like you're dining in someone’s home. A fabulous house band plays all night long. 

58 San Juan de Dios, bet. Aguacate & Compostela, Havana. +53 7 8602490

 

Lamparilla Tapas & Cervezas

This old-school cafe invites you in with colorful couches, flea-market decor and an alfresco dining atmosphere (think open garage-style doors). A long list of tapas and an almost longer list of cocktails ensure you stick around to enjoy a leisurely midday meal. Don’t skip the tuna ceviche with roasted hazelnuts, which add a perfect little crunch to this traditional dish. The cocktails are beautifully presented in mismatched glasses with intricate garnishes.

361 Lamparilla, bet. Villegas & Aguacate, Havana. +53 5 2895324; Facebook

 

Dinner

via Website


Habana 61

You’ll hear lots of people recommend La Guarida (where Jay Z & Beyoncé ate) and El Floridita (Hemingway’s favorite bar) for dinner options in Havana. But a newcomer to the scene, Habana 61, is just as delicious and a bit easier in terms of getting reservations. It’s a teeny tiny spot with modern interiors and air conditioning, but don’t let that fool you  the menu is utterly authentic. The octopus carpaccio and lobster ceviche were to die for. Get the sangria.

61 Habana, bet. Cuarteles &
Peña Pobre​, Havana. +53 7 8016433; paladarhabana61.com

 

304 O'Reilly

A vibrant, borderline hipster atmosphere and a Cuban-fusion menu make 304 O’Reilly another must-visit spot in Havana. Amble into this art-inspired bistro for a top-notch meal — don't leave without trying the Tacos O'Reilly — and some of the most impressive cocktails around. Seriously, might be the best in Cuba.

304 O'Reilly, bet. Habana & Aguiar, Havana. +53 7 8630206

 

El Chanchullero

Probably the hardest place to get into, as it doesn't take reservations and the wait can reach three hours on a weekend evening. But those factors don't stop locals and visitors alike from lining up, because the menu is so worth it. Large portions of amazing food for ridiculously low prices (think 4.50 CUC for an entree of pulled pork with all the works) make El Chanchullero easily the best meal in Havana. 

457 Teniente Rey, bet. Bernaza & El Cristo, Havana. +53 5 2760938; el-chanchullero.com


By Angelina Zeppieri

Angelina is a ​lifestyle writer and explorer from New York City, focusing on travel, food and other important things. You can usually find her on a yoga mat, at a wine store or off on a new adventure. Follow her on Instagram and her blog.