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Vegetarian in Cuba2015-09-14T03:34:06+00:00

Best Cuba Guide Forums General Vegetarian in Cuba

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  • AvatarMariel
    Post count: 0

    Hi Mario,

    My boyfriend and I are travelling to Cuba this November. We’ll be staying in Vedado, Havana in a hotel to start and may stay in casas for part of the trip (though we ARE booked into a hotel for the week as part of our travel package).

    I’m vegetarian and know that most people in Cuba are not. Can you please recommend some affordable vegetarian/vegetarian-friendly places to eat in Vedado/Old Havana/Central Havana, etc.? We may also take a day/overnight trip to somewhere like Vinales.

    I’ve been to Cuba before but stayed in Varadero where food/selection was plentiful. I do eat eggs and dairy but would like to know some options beyond that.

    Thanks for your time!

    AvatarMario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 212

    Hi, sorry for the late reply.

    Honestly, I think you will do just fine in Cuba. Vegetarianism is not so common, but it is present and most state restaurants or palarades have options which should be ok.

    My main concern would be cooking oils used for flavorings. For example, in rice dishes and most fried vegetable dishes the cooks will often add either a bit of pork or chicken fat in order to give the dish more flavor. Will this be a problem?

    In 90% of restaurants, dishes like this are prepared ahead of time and I don’t think the kitchen would make a separate batch without the animal products. You would have to ask the restaurant and see what they say.

    But almost every restaurant offers pasta dishes and simple pizzas. These are often the most popular items on the menu. Those have no meat or animal products in them, other than the dairy used in the cheese.

    Also, all restaurants have salads and a side dish of vianda, which is usually the root vegetable which is available at the market that day. It’s very filling.

    And, all cafes have breakfast sandwiches which are just bread, egg and cheese, maybe with some marmalade. I think these would fit your diet. Most street food is vegetarian. It’s very tasty and filling.

     

    My preferred website for restaurants in Cuba is http://www.alamesacuba.com/es/la-habana/search/?name=&county=1&cuisine=0&pricerank=0

     

    Some restaurants that I have been to and I know have some solid vegetarian options are as follows:

    http://www.alamesacuba.com/es/la-habana/restaurant/la-catedral/

    http://www.alamesacuba.com/es/la-habana/restaurant/el-balcon/

    http://www.alamesacuba.com/es/la-habana/restaurant/razones/#!/menu

    http://www.alamesacuba.com/es/la-habana/restaurant/el-idilio/

    http://www.alamesacuba.com/es/la-habana/restaurant/la-isla-de-la-pasta/

     

    Many of the restaurants have their menus on the website and you can look over them before you go.

     

     

    AvatarMariel
    Post count: 0

    Hi Mario!

    I’m so sorry for the late reply. Thank you so much for all of the info you provided. It does sound like I’ll manage just fine since I do eat eggs and dairy. The animal fat that may be used to prepare the dishes is not ideal. I may just stick to those items you suggested to be on the safe side.

    Also, my spanish is mas o menos so I’m not sure I would be able to convey that request very well. =P

    Are the standard rice and beans dish cooked with some kind of animal fat? I’m guessing likely?

    As an aside, we’ll be flying out there next Sunday and I would like to book a taxi tour with someone you’ve mentioned in a different section of this forum. I’ll have to reread and find that info from you.

    Thanks again for your reply. I will definitely note the suggestions you’ve given.

     

    AvatarMario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 212

    Hi, really, in Cuba, Pork fat is a very common component in most dishes. They have vegetable oil too, but they have to buy it. The pork fat is simply rendered from other dishes and then used as flavoring, basically for free. It is common to find pieces of pork meat and fat in rice dishes.

    At a state run restaurant it would be very unlikely that the kitchen staff makes you a special dish. But at a small paladar (independently owned location) of which there are thousands in Havana, it is more likely that they will prepare you something without any fat, as you request. A higher end place, will likely have vegetarian options. You will have to look for the right restaurants for you, but I can guarantee that they are there. But it’s a niche market.

    At most state run restaurant the wait staff is unlikely to speak english. But at mid to high end paladares, the waiters will speak english well enough. I don’t think you will have issues. And high end does not necessarily mean expensive. At a low end place you might pay $3.50 for a meal. At a high end place you might pay $5.50 to 7$. It’s not a huge difference, and you will likely get much better service, so…

    As for the taxi tours, I can book you one, no problem. Just use the contact form at http://bestcubaguide.com/havana-taxi-tours-cuba-excursions/ On the contact form, just select Private taxi Guide/ Driver.

     

    For the standard Havana tour, it costs about $35 to 40$. You can work out the small details directly with the driver. Most tours are hosted by a driver named Julio. His direct number is (53) 5 2644989 if you want to book the tour yourself. Or else, if you are in Havana, you can call my assistant, Claudia, at 053 895036 and she can arrange the tour for you on short notice. She speaks perfect english.

     

    The tour route is as follows.

     

    Starting in Vedado:

    -Malecon (National hotel, US interest section, Riviera hotel built by Meyer Lansky, Melia Cohiba hotel,)

    -Tunel of 5th Avenue

    -Miramar through 3rd Ave till the Russian Embassy, the biggest one in Cuba, former Soviet embassy and then back through

    – the 5th avenue, embassies of Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and future US embassy….., park of 24th and 5th avenue with the big ficus trees more than 100 years old

    -then the metropolitan park of Havana (the forest and the river), Nuevo Vedado quarter, bordering Colon Cementery

    -Market of Tulipan for a juice, lunch or browsing.

    -Revolution Square, Carlos III, Reina, China Town, Capitolio, Central Park, Prado Promenade

    -Tunel of the bay of Havana, Christ of Havana for a global view of the city

    -and then back through the tunnel and the harbor avenue, 4 caminos market area and the “interior” part of the city (Cerro)

     

    End either in Old Havana or go back to Vedado.

     

    A trip like this would likely last about 1.5 to 2 hours.

     

    AvatarMariel
    Post count: 0

    Hi Mario!

    Again, thanks for your reply. I’m on that link you provided for a taxi tour and trying to reserve a tour right now.

    I was wondering, what is the tipping custom for drivers? And in general?  Also, I’m assuming the driver will speak English?

    Thanks so much!

    AvatarMariel
    Post count: 0

    Also, you can email me directly at the email I left here on the site, if you’d like. We fly out early Sunday morning so I’ll have access to email until around 5 a.m. Sunday morning EST.

    Thanks!

    AvatarMario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 212

    Sorry, I have been traveling and did not have a chance to write you back earlier. I only just saw your email.

     

    I suggest no tipping for drivers. We compensate them fairly and no tip is expected. Tipping is rare in Cuba.

     

    Have a great time!

     

    Mario

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