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My Cuba Diaries: Dinner at La Guarida

If I knew nothing else about going back to Cuba, one thing was for sure. I would dine at La Guarida, Havana’s most coveted paladar. I requested a reservation not weeks, but several months in advance. An exaggeration for sure, but my preventive excitement was off the charts. Ever since watching Fresa y Chocolate (1993), the sole Oscar-nominated Cuban movie shot on the location of today’s La Guarida (that’s hideout in Spanish), I’ve made a mental note to one day visit.



Hidden Havana gem: Los Naranjos restaurant

Tucked between the art deco Cuban architecture masterpieces and wide, leafy avenues of Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, Los Naranjos restaurant is one spot where Cuba’s splendorous past and innovative future meet. 



The Perfect Cuban Sandwich

The legendary “Cuban sandwich,” glazed ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard, and sliced dill pickles lightly grilled atop Cuban bread, isn’t just a tasty treat. It’s a slice of history.

The “Cubano” likely originated with Cuban factory workers in Tampa and Key West at the turn of the century. Given the ease of back-and-forth travel then between Florida and Cuba, the sandwich soon became a lunchtime favorite in both places. A later version, made from sweeter bread, caught on as a “medianoche” (midnight snack) at late-night clubs.



Explore Street Food in Cuba

If you want to experience a culture’s epicurean essentials, do as the locals do: seek out the best street food. Throughout Cuba, vendors peddle simple snacks and drinks, offering a great way to taste many flavors without dropping much cash. In Cuba, as in other places, street food is best explored by those with ironclad digestive systems and adventurous mindsets.


What to Look For 



My Cuba Diaries: Shopping in Cuba

Sunscreen, toothpaste, wet wipes, Advil, female products, insect repellant: forgetting these basic items is not an option when packing for Cuba. The buzz surrounding the island’s open-door policy toward Americans is heartening. But don’t forget, the embargo is still on—which means the most common necessities remain scarce in Cuba’s state-run shops.



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.