Welcome to Santa Clara, the historical capital of the Villa Clara Providence in central Cuba that exudes a youthful, creative vibe, but the opposite can be said of the local cuisine. Here, visiting students, journalists and volunteers can enjoy very traditional Cuban fare while brushing up on local history. Santa Clara’s most celebrated restaurants are usually located at “casas particulares”—privates home that offer lodging for travelers—and “paladares”—small, private restaurants run by families.
Cuban Food by Candlelight
Located in a “casa particular,” Restaurant Florida Center on Maestra Nicolasa Street near Parque Vidal—Santa Clara’s vibrant town square and one of the city’s top attractions—is the city’s most acclaimed restaurant. You’ll understand why from the moment you settle in for dinner in the candlelit, colonial-style courtyard. The most popular dishes here include ropa vieja, a classic shredded beef stew, and lobster and shrimp cooked in a tomato-based sauce. They are typically accompanied by salads and fruit dishes. This place can get crowded, so be sure to stop by early and reserve a table.
Indulge Your Palate at a Paladar
To savor Cuban cuisine at its most authentic, “paladares” are the way to go. If you find yourself near Parque Vidalstop by nearby El Alba, a “paladar” that serves generous portions of traditional dishes such as ropa vieja, congris—white rice and black beans cooked together—and roast pork. However, it’s the fish cooked over charcoal that steals the show. Another paladar worth your time is Sabor Latino in the center of the city, where the entree options include roasted chicken, pork fricassee and the signature Zarzuela Caribeña, a casserole dish that combines shrimp, lobster and snapper.
Located on the rooftop terrace at Hostal Autentica Pergola, a “casa particular” near the center of Santa Clara, La Aldaba restaurant overlooks the city and has a wide selection of Cuban rums for you to choose from, as well as beer and wine. La Aldaba is a seafood lover’s dream, with many of the dishes featuring fish, shrimp or lobster. Not feeling seafood? Lamb and chicken are also on the menu. The rooftop is covered, which means you can dine here rain or shine. You might enjoy yourself so much you’ll be inclined to return for breakfast the next day.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
If you’re craving something sweet or just need a caffeine fix, head to Café-Museo Revolución on Calle Independencia, a coffee shop, and order “El Café Revolución,” a signature offering made with coffee, chocolate, fruit syrup, milk and merengue. There’s fresh juice, too, if you prefer something more refreshing. The tiny shop markets itself a café and a museum and lives up its name, as the walls are covered with insightful paraphernalia from the Cuban Revolution. Craving ice scream? Stop by Coppelia, a national ice cream parlor chain in the city center. For pastries, visit Panaderia Doña Neli on Calle Maceo, which is also ideal as a breakfast stop.
Visit jetblue.com to learn more about JetBlue’s nonstop service to Cuba.