El Chanchullero Cafe-Bar

Looks can be deceiving. That's what El Chanchullero teaches you. This humble, bare-bones bar might not look like the kind of place you'd expect to find great food, but it consistently turns out wonderful Spanish-influenced dishes. Grab a table in this cosy, off-the-beaten-track hangout and prepare to be impressed.

A few bar stools and four small tables. That’s pretty much all that makes up the entire seating area of El Chanchullero. But squeeze yourself inside and grab a table - what this open-fronted bar lacks in space it more than makes up for in the quality of its food.

The choice of dishes are marked up on a chalkboard outside the main entrance. Once inside, you’ll come across a bar with a distinctly local, laidback vibe. Every square inch of wall space seems to be covered with framed posters and photographs, while the chunky wooden tables have messages scrawled across them from previous customers. If you’re looking for an informal, warm atmosphere to eat good local food – this is the place to come.

The humble surroundings of El Chanchullero would make you think it was the kind of establishment that turns out simple and familiar light bites. Far from it. The menu is packed with a selection of beautifully cooked dishes that go way beyond the average bar-restaurant experience. And portion sizes are generous to say the least.

Favourites from the menu include ‘Cerdo al Perejil’ (a grilled pork dish) and ‘Surtido Chanchullero,’ (shrimp enchiladas). The meaty, seriously huge shrimp, are served over a hearty bowlful of fresh vegetables including avocado, tomatoes and peppers - and you get a side portion of bread included, too. Also worth mentioning is the ‘Brocheta de Pollo’ (juicy chicken kebabs), which is a definite contender for El Chanchullero’s best dish.

For such a small bar the menu is surprisingly substantial and prices are incredibly reasonable. You’ll struggle to eat so well for so little anywhere else in Havana.

There’s also a fully-stocked bar offering beer, sangria, rum and plenty of cocktails including ice-cold caipiriñas, mojitos, piña coladas and caipiroskas.

The limited bar space means you can’t be guaranteed a table, but it’s most definitely worth swinging by and waiting for a seat if El Chanchullero is full when you arrive. With such hearty portions, incredibly flavoursome food and a laidback atmosphere, El Chanchullero is one of Old Havana’s top spots for a relaxed meal out.

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