Our Vegetarian in Havana

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To profess vegetarianism in a typical restaurant in Havana is to be met in most instances with ‘omelet?’ and what you will get is the same as everyone else but with an omelet instead of the meat, so typically this would be a small thin well cooked omelet accompanied by rice and beans.  After a while I began to crave broccoli.

In Vedado, the vegetarian stalwart of pizza is delicious in the cafe style formica tabled Trattoria Maraka’s on Calle 0 between Calles 23 and 25, literally around the block from the Habana Libre Hotel and its also delicious a taxi ride away in the old town, served on the elegant piazza in Restaurante La Dominica. I read Graham Greene’s hilarious ‘Our Man in Havana’ while I was there and delighted in visiting the streets of the old town that he mentioned so often.

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But dinner is by no means the only fun to be had at night.  By day Havana is noisy and hot and polluted but the wall around the pool at the Habana Libre, formerly the Havana Hilton before the revolution is an adequate barricade against the noise of the old cars.  One can lie under a canopy drinking pina colladas or too sweet mojitos and look up at the rooms occupied by Fidel, Che et al circa 1959. The rooms there are large and comfortable and modern, afford spectacular views over the city and are drenched in sunlight via the floor to ceiling windows.  But at night the heat and the breeze from the sea are delicious.  Around Las Ramblas in central Havana the pavements throng with brightly dressed locals and live music emanates from every bar. In contrast the old town with its magnificent buildings is elegant and staid and more touristic.

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The people in Havana are very convivial, walking alone will not leave you without conversation.  Some people will ask you a lot of questions and then ask for money, others will just ask you a lot questions, enchanted by the outside world almost impossibly out of reach.

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In his biography ‘Before Night Falls’ Reinaldo Arenas wrote, unhappy in exile after finally making it to the United States ‘The difference between the communist and capitalist systems is that, although both give you a kick in the ass, in the communist system you have to applaud, while in the capitalist system you can scream.’

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16 thoughts on “Our Vegetarian in Havana

  1. its good Karan, appreciate your efforts in being vegetarian there! Also start practicing Sel Inquiry / Atma Vichara, that would take you towards the supreme being / God…As a friend, I can definitely share details regarding the same. You can drop me a mail and I will forward you more info on this.

    Love,
    Satheesh Kumar, India.

    • Hello Satheesh

      I have been vegetarian for many years and some countries are more difficult than others. Cuba was a challenge but then so are parts of France! Whereabouts in India are you from? Some time ago I stayed at the Sivananda ashram in Kerala (amongst others) and it was enlightening..

  2. Hi Karen,

    Nice comments – I am visiting Havana and Varadero in May/June with my wife – we are both vegetarians and would love your comments on the veggie friendly places to eat in and around Havana.

    Looking forward to hearing from you soon

    • Hi Deepak

      The two Italian restaurants I mention are really nice, the one in Vedado is more like a cafe and you sit inside, the one in the old town is more elegant and there are tables outside on a quiet street. I went for a day trip to Las Terrazzas, a eco village and they had a wonderful looking vegetarian restaurant there but if you go on the (government run)tour from Havana they stop at a different restaurant for lunch at its not close to this one (they go there at the end) so it will take some planning. We missed out on this one because we thought we could just pop in there…its called El Romero and looks really good

      • Hi Karen,

        Thank you for your suggestions :D I’ve done a fair bit of online searching and have found a good selection for the 4 days in Havana – will definitely be making a day trip to Las Terrazas and also the botanical gardens – apparently a lovely veggie place there too.

        I hope you enjoy your time in Cuba – I shall be keeping upto date with your blog for sure

        • Hi Deepak

          I also made a list of vegetarian places before I went but unfortunately the group I met in Havana were mostly carnivorous! I have read very mixed reviews about the restaurant in the botanical gardens but didnt get to go there. More on the agenda were places like Hemmingway’s haunt La Bodeguita del Medio, worth it for the atmosphere and the photos but not really for the food! Another one I read about but didnt get the chance to go to was Restaurant Vegetariano between calles C and D, the tip I read somewhere was to refuse table service…It was a shame the government tour didnt go past El Romero (the vegetarian restaurant) at Las Terrazzas until the end of the day. But forewarned is forearmed and I think its worth taking a detour. Thanks for reading my blog and have a fantastic time in Cuba.

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