Pappas Bros. Dallas, Love Shack and Sonny Bryans BBQ @ DFW Airport

Do you wonder…”where’s the beef?” It’s in Dallas and here are 3 spots whether you looking for a high meal or something for the flight back.

Pappas Bros. is quite simply one of the best steakhouses in the country. Everything from the cocktails to the starters, the steaks, sides and desert absolutely top notch. While waiting for the table we started with cocktails. Enjoy Bourbon? Try their Well Bent comprised of 2 bourbons, sherry and Campari…outstanding.

To start we ordered up Bacon wrapped Scallops,Crabcakes ,Shrimp Cocktail, Deviled Eggs with Lobster and their House salad topped with Bacon. For my main I choose the Pappas dry aged strip steak (this is what they are known for) rare and bleeding that came out bloody delicious. How a vampire would eat it.

For sides we went big with onion rings the size of bagels, creamed spinach, au gratin potatoes, and blue crab mac n cheese. All great the latter two the standouts.

For desert we shared Pecan Pie and an insane Milk Chocolate Marshmallow mouse cake. Irish Coffee with Amaro for my final beverage of the evening.

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is located at 10477 Lombardy Lane

For lunch at DFW airport on my way home I popped into the Love Shack. Their bacon cheese burger was great, fries very good, though their Chocolate Shake was more a frothy Chocolate milk. So skip the shake and get a local craft brew from the Deep Ellum Brewery. I enjoyed a Dallas Blonde and wish I could have brought back a six.

For dinner on the plane I stopped at Sonny Byran’s DFW location and ordered their Sliced Brisket sandwich. I was pleasantly surprise by how delish this brisket at an airport was. God Bless Texas.

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Tampa: Harbor Island Sushi, Seafood, Burgers and Ybor Craft Brews

Ever been down to Tampa for biz or pleasure? I recently had a business trip down by Harbor Island where I stayed at the Tampa Marriot Waterside which made a great place to base out of.

Upon arriving at TPA I needed the lunch I forgot to bring on my JetBlue flight. Burger 21 right in the terminal has tasty Burger’s….I couldn’t believe it when they asked how I wanted it cooked. This was no fast food burger…the Haystack with Bacon, cheese and guac was great.

Once checked in at the Marriott I took care of e-mail and follow-up phone calls then hit the pool for laps.

Dinner time…I decided to keep it local and went across the bridge to recently opened American Social on Harbor Island for dinner. They have a great selection of craft brews, I started with the Proof Brewing Mango Wit. Ordered up Shrimp and Grits with a side of Broccolini to keep it green and healthy and a Last Stop Limited Edition IPA. Of note, this spot is better for drinks and mingling than food.

Every morning I got breakfast at Fast Jack’s (Jackson’s To Go spot). The Ham n Egg sandwiches are big enough for two, their special green shake is nutritious and delicious and their coffee was great and strong.

I had a number of my meals at Jacksons Bistro a nice spot right on the water with indoor and outdoor seating. My first day after internal meetings and external client calls I needed lunch. Lobster bisque with blue crab fritters to start and a Yellowtail roll and the Sexy Ben Roll (Tuna, Eel, avocado and Tobiko) hit the spot and then back for more meetings.

After a looong day…time for Happy Hour at Jackson’s outdoor bar with my crew. Needing a change of atmosphere we headed over to nearby Ybor City’s Tampa Bay Brewery for dinner and brews. Hibiscus Wheat to start, then a Kumquat IPA to go with my Goulda cheese, Bacon and Chipolte BBQ sauce Burger with a side of Mac n Cheese. Yum…

Next day we celebrated a work anniversary at…correct, Jackson’s Bistro. NE Clam chowder to start followed by a Grouper tempura roll, a Spider Crab roll and Scallop nigiri.

For dinner my original plan was for somewhere new…but after another long day and a swim found myself with a Burger topped with Pastrami with a side order of Seafood at Jackson’s indoor bar. Then hit for a bit American Social for craft brews and to check out the scene…which is rather good looking.

My last day I got a Cuban for breakfast at Fast Jacks by the water on the Riverwalk and their Chicken Mojo for lunch for the plane. Both good sized, fresh and tasty.

Location wise the Tampa Marriot Waterside right across the bridge from Harbor Island was great. Rooms are nice with big comfy beds, free WiFi for Marriott Members, and large screen TV’s. However the star is the beautiful saltwater pool and deck. The water deep enough to do my almost daily laps…to burn off all the tasty burgers, sushi and craft beers:)

#Travel 2018 Survival Gear

Are you ready to start hitting the road for pleasure and business in 2018? Here are my latest and greatest fear picks for Traveling this coming year.

First up, my new Away Bigger Carry-On has really impressed me. This slightly larger size actually makes a significant difference in how much you can pack in it. The compression sleeve works great and even has a laptop sleeve in it. Aside from it being ultra light and those 360 wheel Away upgraded the built in recharger so it just pops out at the push of a button.

For your feet Allbirds are ultra comfy and ultralight. While perfect for a long flight I generally pack them for everything from the gym to a walk around town or casual restaurant. I always pack a Patagonia pullover. I’ve used them to stay warm when traveling from cold destinations, to wear when its cool at and even as a pillow while on safari in Africa.

I always pack a camera, my Olympus Tough takes great pics and can handle any of the elements including underwater shots. I carry RHA earbuds not just to ensure quality and hygiene on a plane, but to drown out the psychologically disturbed on trains and buses who blast their music or talk on speakerphone.

See that battered blue and red pillbox…its not new but tried and true. Where I pack my vitamins and meds. Available from Flight001 who specialize in Travel Gear. Aside from books to read I always carry a sketchbook, my current fave is from Leuchtturm1917.

Last but far from least, a good pair of Sunglasses. I’m currently rocking the Eastwood in blue from WarbyParker which are of note and in my case are prescription lens.

If you have any new or must have recommendations please feel free to share them in the comments section or post and tag in Twitter… I’m @steve22roberts and on Instagram @shroberts

Quinto Sol y Blacksmith of Redwood City, CA

If by chance you either frequent Redwood City, CA or find yourself out there on a business (or pleasure) trip here’s a couple of spots that friends and I hit and really enjoyed. After doing some research including a recommendation I choose Quinto Sol based upon its food and drink menu sounding good (turned out to be excelente:) and that it was a pretty large spacious restaurant that could accommodate large groups with a big bar area.

I showed up with over a dozen co-workers in tow without reservations (I tried to set them, but of note, they open at 5pm and do not take reservations over a VM, so book the day before or call at 5pm day of) and was told at best a 2 hour wait. However Alexa the restaurant Manager came through big time, getting us seated within an hour. This worked out perfect giving us an hour to enjoy their awesome Margaritas while we waited.

Quinto Sol’s menu offers Tacos, Burrito’s and a large number of entrees at very reasonable prices for the quality of the food. Their salas, sauces and mole were truly superior. I enjoyed the Lomo de Cerda (grilled Pork tenderloin stuffed with Chorizo, Monterey cheese, Spinach and topped with a memorable Poblano sauce(see featured photo).

Of their Margarita’s their spicy Picante was my fave and I turned on one of my dining companions from Asia to Mezcal, first time they ever tried it. I believe this was when I found myself drinking three fisted.

Quinto Sol is a fun spot for very good Mexican food and great drinks. The service by our waitstaff was spot on and again kudos to Alexa who accommodated our large group.

After dinner we headed over to the Blacksmith a nice local pub with a patio out front and a cool space inside serving well made cocktails and craft beers. My friends and I really enjoyed their Old Fashioned’s. When the clock hit midnight it kinda dawned on us (aka The Final Four:) that we had a big day coming up, thus we Uber uped, calling it a night.

Quinto Sol is located at 2201 Broadway Street in Redwood CA

Blacksmith is located at 2048 Broadway

Summer Beach Reading 2017

I generally put this list together in the beginning of the Summer with books I plan on reading. This year I’m sharing what I’ve already read or in the middle of. The list is a mix Thrillers, some WW2 History, a book on Octopus, a graphic novel and a book on…

Bitters – I love adding Bitters to my cocktails and you should as well. This book not only has recipes for drinks and homemade bitters but a history of them as well. For Cocktails Geeks…

Forever and a Death – International intrigue that takes place when China takes over Hong Kong. This was originally a script for a James Bond movie by Donald E. Westlake.  

Jungle Girl – By the one and only Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Old school high adventure in a far eastern land hidden in the jungles of Cambodia. Wild Tigers, Beautiful Princeses and Warriors oh my…

Killing Pilgrim – Alen Mattich – Another great thriller that wraps in the Assassination of the Prime Minister of Sweden in 1986 and the CIA in the Balkans right before the war broke out.  

Pacific Burn – Barry Lancet – A thriller that spans Japan and SF with an ancient Killer taking out a rich connected Japanese family one at a time. Of note, this is not Supernatural. 



The Consummata by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins- Hard boiled Pulp Noir with tough dames, vicious sadists, and a rather interesting anti-hero mix it up with  exiled Cubans in 1960’s Miami. 


The Night Manager – John Le Carre – A mild mannered Hotel Manager gets caught up in the world of an International Arms Dealer. Oh, he did serve some time in the British Army. I’ve read this twice, before the TV mini series and recently read it again. One of my fave books. 



The Other Side of Silence – Philip Kerr – Former Berlin Detective tries to keep a low profile after WWII on the French Rivera and finds himself embroiled by famous Writer Somerset Magnum with former Nazis and the British Secret Service 


The Soul of an Octopus – Sy Montgomery -If you like to eat Octopus don’t read this, because now I can’t any longer. Amazing book that gives insight into these amazing creatures. 


The Winter Fortress – Neal Bascomb –  The true story of the The Nazi program to build an atomic weapon at a hydro electric plant in Norway and the heroes who stopped them. 


Earth One: Wonder Woman -Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette. An updated modern retelling of her origin. A graphic novel. 

I’m also going to add a few magazines that may not be in your usual suspect list 


Hayo– This is an independently published magazine that focuses on storytelling and photography vs Hotels, Restaurants, etc 


Monocle – Covers the world and has pieces on everything  from articles on doing business, defense forces, shopping, food,  best places to live etc., around the globe. The perspective is primarily European. 


The Sunday Times Travel UK – Of the traditional Travel mags my favorite. Beautiful photography and great special pieces on destinations around the world. 


WhaleBone – An independent magazine that publishes I believe quarterly and picks a topic for each issue. The current one is on Water and has articles that vary from Female extreme divers to environmental issues. The one before was on Pizza. 

#Beach and #Pool Essentials #Summer 2017

It’s officially Summer in a good part of the world and here are my essentials for the beach, although if you either don’t have regular access or simply prefer the pool I have you covered here as well. Of note, I have no affiliation with any of the brands mentioned. They are simply brands(of course if any of you are interested in me as a “Brand Ambassador”:) I wear, use and like

Beach-Chair – Quite simply it’s not only more comfortable, but better for reading, writing, if need be working or simply enjoying the views. I like Rio Brands, they make big and sturdy chairs that are comfy at the same time. 

Beach Towel – When I bring a chair I use a smaller lighter one, if it’s for a pool lounger or without a beach chair I’ll go plush. 


Suntan Lotion – Not oil, lotion, don’t leave home without it. I generally use Kiehl’s since it’s water-resistant. WaveHunter is pretty good too.


Aloe Vera – after the beach this is huge…Panama Jacks Green Aloe is very good and Kiehl’s Aloe Vera with Oatmeal is as good or better.


Chapstick– I carry one just in case my lips get beat up…. Kiehl’s makes good ones and I found a brand that makes liquor flavored ones like Negroni.


Bonus Recipe – Lemon Negroni – 2 parts Gin, 2 parts Cocchi Americano, 2 parts Lemoncello. Bitters. Shaken or stirred. Drink. Make another:) 

Ear-plugs/Headphones – Ever sit near some imbecile blasting music on the beach? They should be given a ticket for noise pollution. Don’t be one of them, rock your Beats or in my case earplugs I like RHA’s.


Re-Charger– I got this for travel, but if I’m going to do some work at the beach I bring one just in case. I like the Fluxmob Bolt. Don’t forget your charger cord. 


Waterproof Camera– Whether you’re going snorkeling off the beach, taking pics in the ocean of surfers and rocks or just taking action packed pics in the pool…you need a good Water-Proof point n shoot. My fave is still the Olympus Tough.  



Books/Magazines – For coming, going and chilling out a good beach read is epic. I read a mix of Thrillers and books on the Sea at the beach. For Mags usually something Travel or fitness related. 


Sketch Pad and Pencils – Do something creative. I like to draw so I bring my Weapons of Mass Creation:) 


Sunglasses– the song is great, but cheap sunglasses for your eyes are no good for them. Get a decent pair with UV protection. I like Persol, Oliver People’s, Ray Ban and I’m still rocking my Warby Parkers 


T-Shirt– I prefer some room in my tees for the beach. I have some great ones from Tommy Bahama(see tee on beachchair) in awesome greens and blues. I have a number of Surf tees from all over. I’m also rocking my own Hunters hand painted Tee’s this Summer…shameless plug:) 


Swimsuit – Needs to be quick drying and have a rear pocket(both for a wallet out of water and stash your sunglasses when in it). I like Orlebar Brown, Faherty Brand, Saturday’s, Onia, and Sundek. 

Cargo-Shorts – Drives me crazy these go in and out of season…they are not a fashion item but an essential. I like Polo, Quicksilver and Tommy Bahama’s.


For your Feet- I like either a pair of slip on sneakers like the new limited edition Pilgram Surf + Vans collaboration I’m rocking, Rivera Espadrilles are great for going from the beach to the bar and of course Haviana Flip Flops. 


That pretty much covers the essentials and it all fits in your daypack/beach bag (except the chair:). Additional gear you may find essential includes something to throw, i.e. Frisbee, Football, etc. , I have always have googles for swimming laps when I’m at the the pool(also help in taking underwater pics), Surfboard, skimboard, boogie board, fins etc. A bottle opener and corkscrew don’t hurt either. Enjoy the Summer…

#Passports, Visas, Packing, etc #Travel Things To Know Before You Go

I experience a fair amount of synchronicity. Recently a friend shared that on a trip to St.Lucia a family friend was denied boarding due to his Passport not being valid any longer. It was “good” till July of 2017, the trip was in May of 2017. The next morning in the elevator two girls from my building were discussing an issue with a Passport not being usable due to hole punches in it. 

I put the following piece together to provide some valuable info so you can avoid being a “bad” travel story vs coming back with stories and pics (the photos in the blog are all mine) to share from your next great vacation.


Passport

If you go to Travel.State.Gov it will say your Passport is good for 10 years. Keep reading a few lines down where you’ll see it’s not. Your Passport is not good for 10 years. It’s valid for 10 years…however pretty much every country wants your Passport valid for over 6 months before you leave their border. Thus, if you plan on going outside the country, once it hits 9 years get yourself a new one. I’ve found ItsEasy to be a great service. You can use the Post Office, but I prefer the level of service, especially if you want expedite options. 

Of note, when you get your new Passport, they will send the old one back. It will have Holes punched in it to invalidate it. Even If the date of the Passport has not expired, it is not good any longer. If you try to use it, you will get denied entry. 



Airline Seats

This drives me nuts and I find this practice disgusting. I’m buying a damn seat on the plane…this new scam of charging you another $50 + each way to book your seat at time of purchase is ridicules. If you choose not to, then it’s case by case by airline but generally its 24 hours before the flight to choose the seat and then hoping to not get stuck in the middle or a nightmare at the airport. For the record, I generally wait the 24 hrs before. Great way to kill loyalty, Marketing geniuses. 


VISAS

Visas vary by county. Some you need in advance, others you can get at the airport. For example for Vietnam I had to get it in advance through an agency (I used ItsEasy), though for Cuba I got mine in advance but actually didn’t need to on JetBlue, since when you check in you can buy it. Check out VISA Info for details on major countries and there are links to find info on others. 



Currency

I use my AMEX as much as I can so I don’t have to carry much cash and they get a good exchange rate. I do get some cash in the countries currency I’m visiting before I go, primarily for cabs, tips, and drinks. Most major banks can get the major currencies within a week, but it’s always best to check with them first, some currencies are harder to come by. I use the XE currency app to get approximate rates. Please note, that’s not the rate you will get it’s what the banks are trading the pairs at. They will charge you a % for their services. 



Disease 

Its not just for going on a safari or remote locations in third world counties. Outbreaks can happen anywhere .ie Zika. While planning your trip check out CDC.Gov for what shots and meds you may need. When I went on Safari and on a trip to Asia I used PassportHealth for shots and meds and have been very happy with them. 


Trouble Zones

We live in crazy times. Stuff happens any and everywhere. Always good to check with the State Dept at Travel.State.Gov to see if where you are going has any issues. This is especially important for backpackers and those doing to a GAP year. You  may need to reroute as you go. 


Packing

Stop over-packing. You don’t need half of what you stuffed in your suitcase. Yes, you can wear it again. Buy some wool or capeline t-shirts, underwear, socks and polos. Airlines are charging extra for luggage which is nothing compared to the time wasted waiting for luggage to arrive or having it lost altogether. 

Along with you Basics…


Backpack-Pack stuff in it as your “personal” carry on. Unload it at the hotel and use as your daypack and/or pack an ultra-lite the REI…or Timbuk2 has some small foldable travel bags for use by day or to carry gifts backs. 

Phone Recharger- I like the Bolt. Some new luggage like Away and Raden have chargers built in. Don’t forget the cords for your device or it will be useless. 

Earbuds/Headset. I pack these for survival while traveling. Why? I’m dumbfounded by how many inconsiderate morons either blast their music or movies without a headset, talk on speaker or think giving a kid an iPad without a headset to play a game with the volume on high there are. I wear mine…to save lives. 

Meds- Do not count on getting allergy medicine, pain relief or Prescription meds (that you need regularly)while away. Bring what you need. I carry mine in what looks like a big Tylenol pill

Sunscreen- I always bring my own and put it in a carry-on sized bottle. Many places what they have is lacking or grossly overpriced. 

Bug Spray- If you’re going somewhere where it’s an issue bring your own, you not be able to find it. For Mosquitos I’ll get Deet, but otherwise there are all natural lemon based ones out there. REI and EMs carry them. They do have small carry on size bottles.

Camera- No your phone isn’t a camera, though it makes a good back-up and for use at night in restaurants. For most people I recommend a good point and shoot. I like the Olympus Tough since it’s waterproof to 30ft so I can use in rain or snorkeling. If you’re good or really into it, then get yourself a DSLR or a Mirrorless with the appropriate lens. Don’t forget the recharger and the cords. 

Flashlight and Batteries…doubles as a light in the dark and if need be a weapon😈

Bottle-Opener/Corkscrew(Important Note: The Corkscrew cannot have a blade)- I usually have one, the other or a combo, cause you never know when it might come in handy…

Rain-jacket-I prefer it to an umbrella(can work as a windbreaker as well) but your choice.

Swimsuit – even if you are not hitting the beach, maybe the hotel has a pool, the Chalet has a hot tub or you want to hit a Spa. 

Pen- Yes I know, you’ll just take notes on your phone. Can you use your phone to fill out the Entry documents they give you on the plane…didn’t think so. 

You did remember to bring/pack your Passport and Visa’s right? Have a great trip. Feel free to add additional websites, info, must haves to pack in the Comments section. 

Old Havana Cuba Through the Eyes of Artists

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Roberto Fabelo

Rumour has it that Havana has a thriving Art scene so I decided instead of roaming around Vieja Havana with a paper map just looking at the usual suspects I would get a Tour Guide for the day. However, I wanted one who knew the Galleries and Artists. My on the ground contact Raiza found for me a multi-lingual fluent in English Teacher who not only knew many Artists but was an accomplished one himself.

Nick met me at my home while in Cuba, Tu Habana and we jumped into a shared cab (only 1CUC!) that dropped us off at Parque Central by the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso with the Capital building in view and famous hotels like the Inglaterra nearby. We sat down on cement benches across from the statue of Jose Marti to discuss the history of Cuba and do some people watching.

After a good hour long plus History lesson we headed over to the Plaza de Armas where stands the Statue of Carlos Manual  Despasdes and the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the former residence of the governors, now a great museum I highly recommend checking out due to its variety of works. It was here I first came upon the works of the Artist Roberto Fabelo, a surreal abstract of a Nude Woman holding a Fork while sitting astride a Giant Rooster(more on this to come). The Castillo de la Real Fuerza is nearby right on the water. The old fort and its canons are great for photos.

It was time for a late lunch, we went to The Mercado(Coin)restaurant not just for the food but the open airy terrace and its great views. While discussing a number of topics he shared when you meet a beautiful Cuban girl take her to a place like this and whisper in her ear. “Salud que belleza sobra” health and beauty.

Well sated we continued weaving our way through the streets of Old Havana passing by Hemingway’s home where he wrote his classic Islands in the Stream on the way to the Square Cathedral St. Francis. For some great city views we went up the Edificio Gomez Vila to the Camera Obscura.

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We entered the Vieja Square (which oddly enough in 1559 was called Nuevo square) where I came upon Roberto Fabelo’s Rooster again, though this time as a rather large sculpture. Oddly enough it wasn’t till months later at the Context Art Fair NY I learned what it meant. The Rooster is the proud, loud, colorful man who thinks he’s in charge. However it is the woman astride him who is in charge. She either controls him with her “sex” via the legs wrapped around him…or uses her fork to feed him.

While heading to Calle O’Reilly and Calle Empeandro we came upon the Raquel Hotel a beautiful space with lobby and bar full of beautiful artwork. We walked into the gallery of Antonio Estupinan who was working on a painting using Newspaper as canvas and stopped into a number of other galleries including Izmary Gonzalez Cabrera gallery, Sanlly Viera’s Gallery, Alfredo Mendoza and Maikel Sotomayor Open Estudio, Abel Massot, and Juan Lopez’s to name a few.

We popped into O’Reilly 304 for Mojito’s served in big glass jars. Fortified we headed to Calle Empeandro which has a number of Galleries Stopped by the Leblanc art gallery and then onto El ojo de Ciclon a physical manisfistation of Artist Leo D’Lazaro’s mind. Nick was handed a Guitar and started playing and singing Cuban songs in the “man cave”. Surreal.


Next thing I knew it was after 8pm and time to call it a day. I thanked my guide Nick for an awesome job and then went back and forth in my broken high school Spanish to negotiate a cab back to Vedado.

 

For more info on the restaurants and bars mentioned please check out my blog on the restaurants of Vedado and Old Havana. Also if you are interested in getting intro’ed to Raiza or Nick hit me in the Comments section.

Where to Stay in #Havana #Cuba… #Vedado

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Vedado

Trying to decide where to stay in Havana, Cuba? After some research I decided to stay in the Vedado neighborhood since its not full of tourists like Old Havana and I would get a better picture of life for the locals. Plus it was great for new Paladars (For Restaurant reviews hit the link:) in easy walking distance to my Casa Particular.


I arrive at Tu Habana( Calle C #158 / Linea y Calzada Vedado) my home for the next 4 nights by a taxi they arranged for me. It’s a brand new B and B that I found via AirBnB that has hot running water, Wi-fi (that worked muy beuno) in the lobby, an awesome breakfast and a 24 hour staff. Upon arrival I’m greeted with a fresh glass of mango juice. The location is great, just a few blocks away from the Malecon with a number of restaurants in walking distance. My hosts Elizabeth and her Husband, Arapey were awesome as well as their entire staff.

After checking in, I rolled out and on over to the Malecon and headed towards the Hotel Nacional for a happy hour Mojito(of note it took close to an hour stopping to take pics). Along the way I stop at the Calixto Garcia statue and the anti imperialist platform. Once I finally arrive I grab a seat by the water and chatted up some girls from Berlin and Hong Kong while drinking a Mojito.

On the way back I noticed a bunch of blue umbrellas and women wearing black vests and white dress shirts ) and went over to investigate finding a beautiful nautically themed restaurant. El Litoral My first meal put to rest the bad rumour about Havana not having good food.

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El Litoral

The next morning over an awesome breakfast my hosts gave me Spanish language, History and Cuban business lessons (we did this every morning, kudos once again Arapey).


My guide Nick (that my local contact Raiza arranged)showed up and we jumped in a local taxi (1 CUC for both of us!) and headed into Vieja Habana (Old Havana) for an awesome fun and informative full day tour(coming up in an upcoming piece)

That night back in Vedado  I headed over to a new spot that recently celebrated it’s first year, New George’s. Up the stairs in a big old home I walked into a great space and took a seat at the bar to eat dinner while flirting with the waitresses.


The next morning over another great breakfast my hosts went over a map of Vedado highlighting some historical as well as new spots to check out. I walked from my hotel up Linea past the Hotel Presidente and headed up the Avenue of Presidents lined with statues of leaders from a number of Latin counties including Eloy Al Faro, Omar Trujillo, Salvador Allende and Simon Bilivor (For extra points Google them). I then cut over to Calle 23 and came upon a number of restaurants. I choose Nely’s...I think I simply have developed a sixth sense for this for a Vieja de Ropa sandwich and Lemonata.

I continued on coming to very long line of people on the street and realizing I was at Parque Coppelia home of the same named Ice Cream parlor. I came to where the street turns into La Rampa and then back to the Hotel Nacional to check out some of things my guide told me about that included the Canons(pointed at Miami) and Bunkers(awaiting US ordinance). I watched the waves crashing against the Malecon and then took a comfy seat in the bar area by the hotel and sipped an El Coctail Mafia (Mojito w Aged Rum) where I met and hung out with a couple and their family on a trip from Florida to Cuba to Europe. The winds finally mellowed up so I headed down to check out the historical Pool. I found some girls to play photographer …to my model.

Walking back I came upon a former Synagogue converted into a multi-use building. Further along then I upon Topoly an Iranian restaurant I stopped for a beverage ended up staying for a late afternoon bite. I continued on to John Lennon Statue/Park hitting the MLK monument first, a park and then the John Lennon Bronze. I stopped to watch some locals playing Soccer then as the sun started to set walked back marveling at all the amazing homes.

For dinner I went to a spot a friend told me about Atelier, a beautiful restaurant with indoor and al fresco seating for another very good meal. On Sunday after spending more time in Old Havana I headed over to the Melia to check it out and the surrounding restaurants. I stopped across the street from the Malecon to watch an incredible wave crashing show. Then went to La Chucherria a local sports bar/restaurant for an early dinner and some more of the wave show.

On my last day before I headed to the airport I took a walk back to the Melia to get some sun and a final stroll along the Malecon before I was whisked off to the airport in a sweet old Chevy. At the airport I grabbed a few bottles of aged Rum, some chocolates and Cohiba’s. On the plane I flew off thinking of when I will return…

Where to Eat in Cuba’s #Vedado and Old #Havana neighborhoods 


Let me start this piece off by putting to rest once and for all any rumours you may have heard about Cuba not having good food. It’s utter nonsense. I ate well the entire time I was there and for very reasonable prices by American standards(of note, and be sensitive to this, by Cuban earnings the prices are astronomical), as in $12 for Grilled Lobster, $2 for a Ropa Vieja sandwiches and $3-5 for Mojitos. The key is to eat at Paladars(privately owned restaurants) vs Government run. I only ate at Paladars, as should you. 

My first meal was enjoyed at El Litoral, I literally stumbled upon this place while walking along the Malecon. I saw a bunch of blue umbrellas and women wearing black vests and white dress shirts with no businesses nearby either way. I had to check it out. So after hitting The Nacional Hotel for a Mojito I stopped in and was floored by what a good looking restaurant it was. 


I started with a Cristal beer, Hogfish Ceviche to start and Breaded Snapper in a almond yucca crust with spinach gnocchi in a four cheese sauce for my entree. My waitress asked if I enjoyed my meal. I told her the chef ruined my trip(with a smile) because now I’m going to compare the rest of my meals in Havana to this one. 

Malecon 161 

The next morning I had my first breakfast at my home for my time in Havana, Tu Habana. It was huge and delicious. Breakfast at Tu Habana starts with fresh fruit and mango or pineapple juice, toast with homemade marmalade(my host Arapey’s mother makes it, I told him he needs to bottle and sell it), fried eggs with bacon or an omelette with ham and cheese and of course Cuban coffee. Since they have a menu with prices on it I think non-guests can enjoy breakfast here.  


Calle C btwn Linea y Calzado 

My first meal in Old Havana was at La Moneda Cubana. My tour guide for the day recommended it since it’s rooftop terrace has great views, a nice breeze and good food. It’s a Prixe Fixe menu with about 8 choices, mostly seafood. I had the Fish with Lobster and Shrimp plate. It came with a very tasty Pumpkin soup to start. Crystal beers to drink. The food was good here as well as the service, though at 20 CUC it’s clearly geared towards tourists vs locals.  


 Empedrado 152

After my extensive guided tour (stay tuned for an upcoming blog on this) running around from 10am till about 8pm all over Old Havana when I finally got back to my room I was shot. For dinner I needed somewhere close by which was no problemo since Tu Habana is located near a number of very good restaurants within 5-10 minutes walking distance. 


New George’s was up the stairs (this is very typical of the Paladars) of an old home that opened up into a very hip looking new restaurant. Their menu is ginormous. I drank a Cuba Libre as I read through their tome and eventually decided on Plantains with Chorizo to start (which did need a hit of hot sauce) and the Aji Shrimp for my main. The local Cuban cola is so-so so I ordered up a Cristal Beer to finish my meal and flirt with my waitresses in broken High School Spanish. 


Calle 3 btwn A y B 

Nely’s is a cute little diner like spot that looks brand new. Their Vieja de Ropa sandwich (it was only 2 CUC’s) was one of the best things I ate in a trip full of good food. I washed it down with a Lemonata. This place was so good that when a group walked by trying to decide if they should try it…I told them you found your lunch spot, get a table. They did and thanked me.  


Calle 23 off the Avenue of the Presidents across from the Riviera heading towards La Rampa

Stop me if you heard this one before…a Jew from Brooklyn walks into an Iranian restaurant in Havana, Cuba. How could I not eat at Topoly? It’s space is all al fresco on a large wrap-around terrace. The Persian menu has plenty to choose from and a full beverage selection. The place is decorated with lots of kitsch and an interesting mix of political figures and movie stars on the walls.


I enjoyed the Nan Chawarma (Lamb with pickles, cucumber, masto khiar and tomato)  with a Cafe Con Leche.

Calle 23 off D

Atelier was recommended by a friend who heard it was great but didn’t get to go. It’s a beautiful space with indoor and outdoor seating with Art adorning  the walls. The menu is handwritten since it changes daily based upon what they can get at the market. 


I started with the Piquillo peppers stuffed with Tuna and for my entree Shrimp in a Bleu Cheese sauce with rice and black beans. I was going to go with a Daiquiri but they ran out of Maraschino liqueur….(“It’s Cuba”…they said it not me) so I had to suffer through more Mojito’s. Atelier is one of Havanas top restaurants so make reservations in advance. 

Calle 5 #511 Paseo y 2

 

Chacon is not the easiest street to find, but Chacon 162 is well worth the search. Some of the best food and drinks I enjoyed in Havana. Great space that looks like it belongs in Williamsburg Brooklyn with Motorcycles and Pop Art themes on the walls. Drinks are served in huge jars (check out that Watermelon Mojito!) with fresh fruits and the ceviche and grilled lobster are great.

Calle Chacon 162

Piscolabis, this place looks like it belongs in Brooklyn. It’s a store that sells gifts, home goods and clothing while also serving very good Cuban Coffee. Drink it on their comfy couch or people watch outside.


Calle San Ignacio #75

La Chucherria Sports Bar is right across from the Malecon and a good spot to watch the waves crash against the seawall, take in a sunset or watch a game. I thought I might have found a Cuban sandwich when I saw not one but two Media Noche’s on the menu but it turned out to be a cold Italian sandwich that was pretty good. I ordered up a Kermato (their tomato with clam juice) with a Crystal beer their version of a Bloody Mary. Mixed them in a glass with some lime juice. Might sound odd but taste very good. 


Malecon off Calle D


On Monday morning after getting some sun it was a last breakfast and off to the airport. How anybody could come here and not eat well even on a budget…I just don’t get it. I will say that Havana may not be a Gourmet destination quite yet, but it’s definitely a Foodie one. The food isn’t spicy but most places have hot sauce(or bring your own) if you need some heat. For Vegetarians and Vegans I will admit it will be challenging. 

I highly recommend you download the Havana Restaurant app Ala Mesa. It’s free and you can download the content so you can use it without Wi-Fi, it’s built for Havana’s harsh Wi-Fi free conditions. Please feel free to post any spots you enjoyed in Havana in the Comments section. Now remove “bad food” off your cons list for Cuba, put it on the Pros list and book that flight…