After a long day of travel, we asked our wonderful Airbnb host where we should go to dinner for our first night in Havana. She recommended El Cocinero, a restaurant that just happened to be a couple blocks away from where we were staying.
Before I share my favorite parts about El Cocinero, I have two things to say. The first being, the food wasn’t all that flavorful at majority of the places we ate throughout our stay in Havana. But there are definitely a few dimes, El Cocinero being one of them. The second is, none of the group I traveled with or myself took very many pictures of the food we ate. Which is extremely unfortunate — but a tough lesson I just learned for my travel-blogging adventures.
Throughout all neighborhoods in Havana, Cuba, street art is prominent and comes in various forms including sculptures, paintings and some are even formed out of recycled materials like in the photo above. When you’re on your way to El Cocinero in Vedado, keep an eye out for art, it’s everywhere and all of it is incredible!
When you reach El Cocinero, there’s no mistaking you have the wrong restaurant or address. Just spot the very large tower that reads, “El Cocinero” in white on the side of it. Take some time exploring the art outside of the restaurant and walking in, it’s very colorful and unique. El Cocinero shares the block and building with the famous Fábrica de Arte Cubano, perhaps one of the coolest places to hangout in Havana, Cuba.
[Click here to watch Anthony Bourdain’s bit on Fábrica de Arte Cubano]
As we entered the restaurant we were greeted by staff and taken up a beautiful spiral staircase to reach the rooftop restaurant seating area. As we all got to the top of the staircase and walked out to the patio we were all mesmerized by the view we had for dinner. At our table we had a clear shot of rooftops stretching for blocks and a sunset that splashed on the clouds above us. I’m assuming there’s indoor seating downstairs, but I highly, highly recommend requesting a table on the roof, especially if it’s a nice day.
Aside from the view we had, the patio was decorated with all sorts of plant life, lighting and art. It even had another spiral staircase that went up to a bar seating area that would give you an even better view of the rooftops. I knew right away El Cocinero was going to be a highlight of our trip, it was that cool.
When we finally sat down at our table the waitress came over and introduced herself. She was very polite and informational about the menu. She also made some great recommendations on things to order from the menu. We started out with the empanadas and baguette with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Both were delicious and also great portions for the 6 of us to start out with. Our drinks were amazing too, most of us had ordered mojitos.
For our main entrees we ordered the Lamb with Rosemary, Lobster, and Fish Tacos. None of us had ever seen a lobster served this big before. It’s the kind of lobster you’d likely pay $60-75 in the states for. If I remember correctly, the lobster dish was no more than $15. In fact none of the dishes were more than $15 and all had more food than we could eat. It was all delicious and very flavorful. It was a great first food experience for us to kick off our week in Havana, Cuba.
Overall I had a fantastic experience at El Cocinero and would undoubtedly go there again the next time I find myself in Havana, Cuba. The staff were friendly, informational and professional. All of the food and drinks were delicious. The ambiance of the restaurant was very well put together and featured an array of art, a great view, music, all combining for a very unique and exciting atmosphere.