If you get tired of eating at the buffet in your all inclusive and want to experience something different, something possibly a little more authentic then you could do a lot worse than venture out into Varadero town and try one of the local restaurants. Bear in mind that these are still for tourists – locals dine elsewhere but the best places offer you good a good dining experience.
Increasingly in the last couple of years more private restaurants (paladares) have opened which has extended the range of options. There are also a few places with a great beach view, which are good for a snack or a drink in the middle of the day when you want to escape from the sun. We have listed a few places we like below:
(This one is a State-run restaurant)
Calle 64 esq. 1ra. Avenida, Varadero, Cuba
(045) 66 7795
La Barbacoa steakhouse and barbeque grill is a place for carnivores. A place to eat large sirloin, T-bone and club steaks cooked medium rare and dripping with a pepper mushroom sauce. Perhaps I am simply projecting my own desires.
It is not inexpensive; think around CUC 16 for a rib eye steak, rice, potatoes and garlic bread, CUC 18 for an excellent Chateaubriand. There are other things on the menu, the onion soup is reportedly excellent and apparently they serve chicken, pork and lobster. Unless you have an allergy to steak though forget about the rest and get yourself tucked in.
This restaurant has been around for many years and has a dedicated clientele, which says something. Ambience wise this is not a romantic locale although is perfectly pleasant. Although it is close to the road it is screened by trees and you don’t feel it so much.
State Restaurant – specializes in Seafood
Calle 1ra y Calle 36, Varadero,Cuba
Tel: +53 45 614019
Barracuda Grill is part of the Barracuda Diving Center in downtown Varadero. This is a nicely done Ranchon (thatched pavilion) overlooking a gorgeous part of the beach. Apart from the view this is a place with a reputation for serving quality-grilled langoustine. (Indeed the place has a giant lobster outside pointing tourists in the right direction). We would recommend to probably stick to the lobster and bear in mind that they are used to dealing with somewhat gullible tourists!
La Casa de Al Capone
Villa Punta Blanca
Tel: +53 45 668050
The Casa de Al (Capone) is a stone building with blue painted wooden attributes, which used to belong to Al Capone. It is now a state restaurant, which has a great location on a buff above the sea. The outdoor tables on the terrace are a great place for a sundowner. This is a proper restaurant (as opposed to a patio under a ranchon) and given its interesting history and decoration it could be a mainstay of the Havana restaurant scene. Unfortunately everything is just a little too slow and a little too bland for me to really cut it and being a state place it simply does not have the same oompf as a private place. I do though like the names on the menu: Mafia soup, Godfather Salad, Fillet Mignon ‘Lucky Luciano’ and cold blood ice cream being a good sample. If you are in Varadero for a while this place is worth a visit.
For a full story on this restaurant and it’s background read Paul Chartier’s story here
La Fondue – La Casa del Queso Cubano
Address: 1ra. Ave. e/Calle 62 & 64, Varadero
La Casa del Queso Cubano has a great location in town and looks like the real deal. It is made of stone and has attractive décor lending a pleasant ambience inside. If popularity was everything then this place would be a prizewinner for it is invariably packed with people, which ought to be a good sign.
Perhaps, but then again maybe its location and lack of competition in the area doesn’t stimulate the staff who seem pretty ambivalent about having new customers to serve.
Food wise it can be a little unpredictable but you won’t go far wrong with the cheese fondue.
Calle 1ra e/ 56 y 58
Parque Josone, Varadero, Cuba
Tel: +53 45 667228
This is a good place to find a traditional Cuban meal including ropa vieja and tamal. Expect a great Cuban flan for dessert. The place itself is rustic mixing wood and stone with a large fireplace, agreeably cramped interior and an outdoor veranda which outside of the summer months is a good place to while away a couple of hours.
Avenida 1ra y 56, Parque Josone Varadero, Cuba
Tel: +53 45 667738 / 667228
This is probably our favorite place in Varadero. A cute Italian overlooking the attractive lake in Parque Josene. Try and get a veranda table, which juts out, over the water. The specialty of the house is pasta, which is excellent. The service is a little posh for some tastes (silver service) but is fast, efficient and friendly, if a little formal.
La Gruta del Vino
Josone Park, Varadero
Avenida 1ra y 56, Varadero, Cuba
La Gruta del Vino is located on the far side of the lake in Parque Josene and is one of the best-kept secrets of eating out of your resort in Varadero. The restaurant itself is located in a grotto like cave, which offers a welcome respite from the heat of the day. There is also a patio out front where you can sip your drink right at the water’s edge.
This restaurant has a good selection of wines and will do a huge freshly caught lobster for a reasonable price. The steak is pretty decent too and with friendly service you won’t go far wrong.
60 St.and 3th Ave., Varadero 42200, Cuba
This is definitely one of the better new paladeres. Slightly off the beaten track – four blocks from the main street this is an appealing and romantic location with friendly although not overbearing staff. The menu is reasonably varied with an excellent paella as well as some good varieties of pork dishes including pork tenderloin wrapped in a smoked bacon and a tasty pork stew with peppers. Try the sangria. Probably best to make a reservation in peak season.