Insight Paladares: Sia Kara

Trendy bar and paladar Sia Kara, behind Central Havana´s famous Capitol building, offers top-notch munchies to locals eager for after-dinner socializing, and travelers hungry and thirsty after tooling around the busy streets of Old Havana.

This avant-garde space—a mix of contemporary art, 50’s household electronics, and an upright piano frequently pressed into service for classic rock and Latin jazz—provides table seating. But you’re well advised to seek out the commodious couches built into the building. 


Additional sofa seating offers added privacy or a bird’s-eye view of the loft. Management won’t look twice if you want to get extra comfortable and lie down (as long as they’re not busy and you take off your shoes). Note, however, that Sia Kara doesn’t take reservations. You may have to grab the first seat you can find. Feel free to ask others to make room at the table—or take your drink out into the street if you feel like stretching your legs.


The paladar’s fried malanga (a tuber grated, mixed with egg batter, and fried) is a must. Croquetas (sublime fritters) use breading, pork or chicken, spices, and flour to create deep-fried deliciousness. Lighter options include sandwiches, chicken soup in a smooth vegetable broth, and seasonal salads.

Within walking distance of Old Havana, but far enough off the beaten tourist path, Sia Kara hosts a mix of locals and foreigners. Like its central location, the paladar’s name is folkloric. “Sia Kara” comes from Afro-Cuban religion and is colloquially used to ward off bad luck or a sour mood, or tell someone “just forget about it”—sort of what this bar and paladar aims to do for its patrons. Strong drinks, a lively atmosphere and great bar menu help you “sia kara” bad mojo.

Close enough to the action of Old Havana to begin, or end, any night, but removed enough to reveal the “real” Cuba, Sia Kara is a true original.

Sia Kara. Address: Calle Industria #502 (on the corner of Barcelona Street, behind Capitolio). Hours: 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily, with live piano and vocalist more-or-less by serendipity. Phone 78674084.