Varadero is an extremely touristic sea-side town in the north of Cuba. It’s one of those places that, if it wasn’t for the tourism influx, wouldn’t exist or wouldn’t be much more than a fishing village.
No wonder Varadero is home to many hotels and huge touristic resorts where tourists stay most of the time with an all-inclusive deal. If you have all you can eat and drink included in your hotel rate, you aren’t very likely to go out to eat. This makes the restaurants nearby offer less in quantity and, experience tells us, variety and quality.
After spending a few days in Varadero and having a few unmemorable dining experiences, we came across 2 places that I would recommend.
El Caney, for lunch
Picture this: you are sitting in the shade at a wooden table. In front of you there’s the beach with its clear waters and the whitest of sands. Right next to you, some palm trees give the place a postcard like tropical feeling.
This tropical feeling becomes funny when you order some coconut water and the waitress shouts “Bring me some coconut!“. The lifeguard at the beach (yes, the lifeguard!) takes note and climbs the palm tree to bring your drink: he takes a ripe enough coconut, cuts a lid out of it and sticks a straw for you to drink. When you finish the liquid, he cuts the coconut into pieces and scrapes of the fruit’s meat, for you to enjoy as desert.
This is the kind of thing you see in the movies and can appreciate in real life when having lunch at El Caney. It’s a simple place, with great friendly service (and this is not that common around Cuba’s tables!), a heavenly surrounding and fresh food that has more taste than 10 average dishes we had in Havana, all combined.
In 2 different meals, we had grilled beef (CUC6), fish fillet (CUC8) and grilled prawns (CUC10) and would recommend all of them – especially the prawns!
To find this place, ask where the “centro comercial” (mall) is. El Caney would be a bit before the mall, by the beach line, when you come in the direction from the bus station towards the resorts.
Paladar de la 31, for dinner
I can’t do without pasta and Paladar de la 31 was the place where I came to town with a rich, meaty penne bolognaise!
We found this place almost by chance as it is not in the main street – you guessed it right, it’s on street 31! From the outside you can’t really foresee that the setting is going to be so nice and romantic. Built in the lower level of a villa and its front yard, Paladar de la 31 offers great food at decent prices, in a lovely setting.
We had pasta both times we visited (Bolognaise, Alfredo with chicken and Pomodoro) but the menu is extensive and, if we would have stayed longer, we would have loved to dig in some more specialities. They have sushi, rabbit stew, Cuban criollo dishes, salads, fish… and they serve a cup of coffee with milk as it’s meant to be: dark on the inside and frothy on top!
To top the experience, finish your meal with a complimentary shot of green honey tasting liquor, that the waiters will serve with a smile!