Sloppy Joe’s Bar
Ánimas, esq. Zulueta La Habana Vieja, CP: 10100 Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba
Tel: +(537) 866 7157
After a nearly 50-year break 6pm is Sloppy Joe cocktail hour again at the original Sloppy Joe’s saloon, an iconic Cuban bar that reopened Friday April 12, 2013 in its original location. The restoration, undertaken by the office of the Historian of Havana, began in 2007 has sought to restore the dilapidated building as faithfully as possible, from the outside façade down to the delicate plaster molding, dark wood paneling and colorful bottles of alcohol displayed behind glass. Parts of the dark mahogany bar, once reputedly the longest in Latin America at about 59 feet (18 meters) have even been preserved and restored to splendor.
‘What interests me is to work to restore to my city, to our city, a whole series of things that form part of its memory. … To restore Sloppy Joe’s is to return to Havana the place where artists, baseball players, tourists all met…the final objective is not commercial, it’s not to exploit a name. The opportunity it brings is to recover an important memory of Havana,’ notes Eusebio Leal, Head of the Historian of Havana’s office.
So – what’s it like?
This is a large bar with plenty of space, which has been lovingly restored. This seems like a flagship place for the City Historian’s office and they have done a great job right down to the name cast into the terrazzo sidewalk. And speaking of those sidewalks – watch the big step up to Sloppy’s from the walkway.
Whether it manages to develop its own ambience will remain to be seen – it has all the ingredients, friendly staff, beautiful decorations and a big long bar. As it gets discovered and increasingly patronized, it will likely evolve into a central watering hole for Havana.
Service was great (although we are still in opening weeks so who knows!) with waiters in black and orange shirts being attentive and friendly. You should try the Sloppy Joe cocktail, a cool, refreshing blend of brandy, port and Cointreau, with a fruity pineapple finish. The menu looks like pretty standard fare (and not cheap) with ceviche and marinated shrimps being good but not spectacular.
One of Sloppy Joe’s most famous attractions was the bar itself, stretching 60 feet. You may have seen it in the 1959 movie “Our Man in Havana”, starring Alec Guinness and based on the novel by British author Graham Greene. Another icon is the Sloppy Joe they serve – the tomato-and-green-olive-spiced ground beef piled high and spilling out of the bun. Eating one is definitely sloppy and definitely quite a treat.
Sloppy Joe’s will undoubtedly join El Bodeguita del Medio and El Floridita on the must see tourist trail. But the place really is very attractive, so for locals and return visitors, it may well become the fixture it once was.
Sloppy Joe’s Bar was a historic bar located in Havana, Cuba. The advent of Prohibition in the United States spurred its original owner, Jose Garcia Abeal, to change the emphasis from food service to liquor service when American tourists would visit Havana for the nightlife, the gambling and the alcohol they could not obtain back home.
Sloppy Joe’s welcomed tourists for over four decades, and offered over 80 cocktails in addition to the bar’s own brand of 12 year old rum. During the 1940s and 1950s it became a favorite haunt of American tourists and film stars like John Wayne, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable as well as tourists wanting to mingle with them. It was for a time one of the most famous bars in the world.
The Cuban Revolution of 1959 saw the American clientele hightail out of Cuba and soon thereafter the bar was nationalized. Over the next few years it languished until a fire in 1965 closed the establishment for good.