The heart of casual cocktailing in Old Havana runs right down Obispo, the main shopping street of the historic area. From Parque Centrale it’s just steps to the west end of Obispo marked by the Floridita, the landmark bar where Hemingway famously drank daiquiris but is not our destination for this tour.
Heading east and slightly downhill toward the harbour from that marker we weave down the bustling pedestrian way to explore its welcoming drinking establishments. At 501 we try the La Casa del Escabeche, a tiny place with an adjoining tiny restaurant. The bar packs in half a dozen tables, a bar and stools plus a combo entertaining the bar and the street outside with Cuban standards.
At 460 on the other side of the street Bosque Bologna has an outdoorsy feel with casual dining and a bigger area for a fine band to perform. Right across the street at 461 is Escuela Primeria José Martí – I guess those school kids get to enjoy the music too.
Just down the block at 412 Ruinas del Parque is another outdoor garden resto/bar that invariably has a very happy musicians and is generally has pretty happy crowd. Across from that, in behind the Associación de Artesanos Artistas with its interesting crafts, is an inviting café that can be reached either though the shop or around the side by heading right to the rear of the outdoor market. It’s a quiet place to hide away for a quiet rest and refreshments.
At 367, just at the SE corner of Compostela is the very narrow La Dichosa, a favorite of mine with a very comfortable bar with Kristal on draft in pints for $1.50 (Jan 13) and the requisite Lucky Strikes case you find most everywhere. It often has excellent bands who somehow project down the length of the bar and make the whole place sway.
On to the much larger La Lluvia de Oro at 316. Its long mahogany bar and ten stools welcome you or head in and grab table in front of the band. The food, like at most of these cute places, is inexpensive (well under 10CUC), very typical and delicious pub-like fare.
Not far on the other side at 301 is the stunning Europa dating from the 1890s, more of a dining spot but with yet another traditional band belting “Yo soy un hombre sincero…” On one occasion I enjoyed their ropa vieja “beef hash” and there’s quite a long menu of Cuban café favorites.
At 252 the Hotel Floridita (not the bar of the same name) has a classy bar and resto and across the way El Naranjar Cremaria looks like a bar but is a primarily a café. But the Café Paris at 202, corner of San Ignacio, is a classic bar with pictures of the Eiffel Tower, tables, band, and stools – the whole thing.
Last and perhaps the finest of Obispo bars at 153 right at Mercaderes, the street you’ll likely explore next on your way to the must see Plaza Vieja, is the famous Hotel Ambos where Hemingway resided. Its gorgeous ground floor bar is usually packed with tourists but is a grand destination to be included in your Obispo stroll.
Each of these places is rewarding in its and together they make the trip down Obispo a lot of fun. Hemingway may have had his Mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio but every one of these spots makes a perfectly lovely one. Try them all – I certainly did!