It looks fairly fancy from the outside, but El Carmelo provides a welcome surprise with its prices. There are offers for less than CUC$5 which include a main, drink, and dessert, or you can get a lasagne for CUC$2.50. Another positive is the huge portions, which mean you can fill up for next to nothing.
Artechef Restaurante Escuela, Havana | Courtesy of Artechef
Another restaurant that serves great food in an elegant setting at bargain basement prices. Set a few blocks away from the Malecon, Artechef boasts well-dressed staff and a formal dining room, but most of the prices hover around CUC$3–4. Take a look at the daily specials in the window before you go in. State-run Artechef is also a culinary school, so you get to experience some artistic Cuban cuisine for rock bottom prices.
Another state-run establishment, Kasalta has the feel of a sports bar. There are TVs dotted around and you can catch a spotty selection of games. The food is what most people come for, with huge portions priced around CUC$4–5. The deals include dessert and a beer. This place is just through the tunnel to Miramar, so it’s great if you’re staying at the western end of Vedado.
The name of this state-run restaurant translates as “the piglet”, and pork dominates the menu. Prices are in Cuban pesos, and you’ll struggle to spend more than CUC$2.50 even if you order a selection of items. Specials can cost as little as CUC$1.30. It gets busy late on, so arrive around 7.30pm.
Another restaurant priced in Cuban pesos, and one that is a popular student hangout thanks to its proximity to the University of Havana. As the name suggests there is an Italian theme, with pizza and pasta dominating the menu. Dishes start at CUC$0.35, and beers can be had for CUC$0.75. You might not want to eat here every day, but you’ll get a great idea of the realities of Cuba as you sip on a beer and mingle with the students.
This cinema-themed restaurant also serves Italian food, although it’s a bit higher quality than Buona Sera. You can get pizza and pasta for CUC$0.35, while lasagne and cannelloni cost around CUC$1. Beer and ice cream are also incredibly cheap. Arrive early on weekends as this place is incredibly popular.
Old Havana is packed with tourist traps selling bad food at high prices, but El Chanchullero is a welcome exception. It’s got a laid-back, trendy feel to it, and an irreverent sense of humour. Main dishes cost CUC$4–5, and the portions are absolutely huge. There is also a long list of great cocktails, and it’s a nice spot to start an evening.