One of Hemingway’s famous haunts, El Floridita is known as “the Cradle of the Daiquiri” and the quality of the drinks served does the title justice. As one recent visitor said, drinking daiquiris here is as quintessential as drinking peach bellinis at Cipriani. A brass statue of Ernest still commands one end of the bar, and the legend is that Papa’s record was fifteen daiquiris in one sitting. Once you have tasted one, you can believe that it’s possible. The smoke-filled front bar room often has live music, and the back dining room is where lunch and dinner are served. Among the house specialties are the Hemingway Plate, a dish with lobster, shrimp and fish; lobster enchilada; the Colonial casserole, which mixes lobster, shrimp and fish in a creole sauce and is legendary as a hangover cure. Open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
One of the most beautiful paladares in the city sits on the third floor of a seriously dilapidated building in Centro Habana. A massive Revolutionary mural greets diners in the lobby before they ascend a grand stairway with wrought-iron balustrades. Up another flight and past paint-peeling columns and crumbling ceilings of the once grand mansion, an elaborately carved wooden door leads into a series of dining rooms. Crystal chandeliers, old family photos and a collection of antique dining chairs are some of the sentimental treasures that create a feeling of warmth and an ode to bygone days. As the restaurant appeared in the movie Strawberries and Chocolate, it is probably the country’s most famous paladar. Owners Enrique Nunez and his wife, Odeysis Baullosa, divide their time between Havana and Miami, and have kept the quality and sophistication of the food as good as that of top U.S. restaurants. Among the celebrities who have come to dine are Queen Sofia of Spain, Danny Glover, Javier Bardem and Gerard Depardieu. The very best table is the one for only two out on the balcony.
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