Inevitably, when I say I’m going to Cuba, somebody says, “Mmm, yummy! I love Cuban food.” And after watching Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" season premiere episode on Cuba, you might be tempted to think something delicious awaits you on the island.
But here’s the honest to God truth: Most food in Cuba is awful.
Oh, sure, you can get a decent meal in a hotel. And in a casa particular – a private home that rents room – you might luck out with an especially talented owner who can whip up a yummy breakfast.
And, yes, there are paladares – private, family-run restaurants – that run the gamut from terrible to exquisite (and crazy expensive, and cash only), but to quote Frommer’s: You don’t come to Cuba for fine dining.
Generally speaking the food is starch-heavy, greasy, and not particularly flavorful. Service is all over the map, from the terribly obsequious, to the obnoxious jerk who once served me and took his smoke break before serving the friend across from me, so that our meals arrived exactly 20 minutes apart – and hers was cold. No apologies.
Yes, part of the problem is that there are scarcities. Even the most upscale Cuban supermarkets (no, not all markets are created equal in Cuba), the variety is stunted.