Buffet Restaurants in Hotels
Don’t visit an all-inclusive resort in Cuba expecting gourmet cuisine. The best you can really hope for here is “edible and reasonably satisfying.” The food really is quite bland overall, there are precooked mystery meats, and there are no fresh vegetables at the salad buffets. Stick to food at the cooked-to-order stations and you’ll probably be better off. Also, the pizza is usually pretty good. Rice and beans are staples in traditional Cuban cooking. Meat-based and seafood dishes are common. You’ll also have no trouble finding international dishes like pasta. Don’t go expecting spicy food, like in Mexico, because you won’t find that in Cuba.
Private Restaurants (Paladar)
Cuba has two types of restaurants, the state-run restaurants and the privately run ones known as paladares particulares. Try eating at the “paladares particulares” since they cost about the same as the state-run ones, but usually have better quality. As locals say, state-run restaurants don’t care about the food quality since, in the end; they don’t need the profits (because they are supported by the government). The private ones, on the other hand, if they are not good, they go bankrupt.
How to know which is state-run and which is private? Either ask them before ordering or just pay attention to where locals are eating and queuing. Cubans (who can afford to eat outside) don’t like the state-run restaurants, so they prefer to queue at a paladar particular.
Cuban Pesos Restaurants
It is common to see places selling pizza and ice cream or other meals for a fraction of what they should cost and charged in CUP (like 10 CUP or $0.50 and much less). These foods, while cheap, are considered “garbage” by locals since they are done with local products of the lowest quality possible.
In Havana, You can find many nice restaurants in well-restored colonial buildings, which usually are built around a pretty garden. In most restaurants outside of the large hotels, be prepared to pay in cash. If your bill does not include a tip, add a few convertible pesos to show your appreciation.
Sweets and snack foods, like chocolate and chips, are very difficult to find so it’s recommended you bring your own.