I love the rustic ambience at El Mesón de la Flota (Mercaderes #257, e/ Amargura y Brasil, tel. 07/863-3638, daily noon–11 p.m., bar 24 hours), a classic Spanish bodega with Iberian decor and tapas, tortillas, criollo entrées (CUC4–18), and Spanish wines (CUC1.50 a glass). It hosts flamenco shows.
Similarly, the bodega-style La Paella (Oficios #53, esq. Obrapía, tel. 07/867-1037, daily noon–11 p.m.), in the Hostal Valencia, serves paella for two people only (although one person could ostensibly eat a double serving) for CUC7–15. The caldo (soup) and bread is a meal in itself (CUC3). You can also choose steak, grilled fish, and chicken dishes (CUC2–10), washing them down with Spanish wines (CUC6–12). Try the excellent house vegetable soup.
The kitchen also serves the Bodegón Ouda (Obrapía, esq. Baratillo, tel. 07/867-1037, Mon.–Sat. noon–7 p.m.), a quaint tapas bar around the corner in the Hotel El Comendador. It serves empanadas, tortillas (CUC1–2), piquillos (fried green peppers, CUC1.50), and pizza washed down with sangria.
La Zaragoza (Monserrate #352, e/ Obispo y Obrapía, tel. 07/867-1040, daily noon–midnight), a moody Spanish-style bodega, serves mostly criollo fare but offers seafood such as squid rings (CUC6), garlic shrimp (CUC12), and ceviche peruano (CUC2.50), plus lamb stew (CUC9), tortillas (CUC3), and pizza (from CUC2).
The Restaurant Jardín del Edén (San Ignacio, esq. Amargura, tel. 07/860-8280, daily noon–midnight), in the Hotel Raquel, offers old-world elegance and an eclectic menu that includes Hungarian goulash (CUC10.50), curried fish (CUC12), and mushroom sirloin (CUC15), plus Jewish dishes such as potato latkes, red-beet borscht, and matzo-ball soup.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition