Cafe De Los Artistas
The Cafe de los Artistas, or the Artists’ Cafe, loosely translated, is a still quite new paladar on Old Havana’s up-and-coming Calle Aguiar. Owned by Luis Carlos, the stage manager of Cuba’s National Ballet, the restaurant’s name is quite appropriate—from the laid-back, creative decor to the accessible prices and the owner himself, this is without a doubt the kind of place where artists of all stripes like to gather.
It's located in one of the most promising communitarian project of Old Havana: El Callejon de los Peluqueros (Hairdressers’ Alley). Everything began when Papito (little daddy), a hairstylist, wanted to transform its community with a project to teach how to become a hairdresser to unemployed youngers. He changed not only his life but the life of many young people and his entire street. Now Callejon de los Peluqueros, this renamed street, is full packed with private and flourish businesses.
The Cafe de los Artistas offers a deceptively natural ambiance, despite the fact that almost every detail of its style has been carefully considered. The starting point of its design is a refurbished building from the late 19th century, whose original character can still be discerned through its solid brick columns and high ceiling with thick, wooden beams. Parts of the interior feel almost cave-like, warmly illuminated after dark by simple, bare bulbs dangling from the ceiling at alternating heights throughout the space.
The decor is simple, primarily based on innumerable black-and-white photographs of past Cuban dance stars adorning wall after wall throughout the dining area. A blackboard features the daily specials handwritten after trips to the market each morning, and bright, colorful floor tiles give the space an extra colonial touch.
Finally, the Cafe de los Artistas also features ample outdoor space for those warm Havana nights when the temperature and the light breeze are perfect for an outdoor meal.
The Food & Drink
Though the atmosphere is certainly enticing, many repeat visitors to the Cafe de los Artistas would argue that the menu is what really keeps them coming back! The idea here is simple -to serve popular Cuban cuisine with a few international touches, and to do it very well.
Even Cubans say that this place serves some of the best ropa vieja available on the island, and the tostones -twice-fried plantain slices- are simply divine. Who knew that such a simple menu item could stand out so much?
As far as drinks go, there’s a full bar menu available, and the piña coladas here are especially top-notch.
For an honest, hearty and homely yet expertly prepared meal in a charming yet unpretentious setting, it’s hard to do much better in the heart of Old Havana than the Cafe de los Artistas. The restaurant is growing in popularity very quickly, so get here as soon as you can to see what all the hubbub is about. It's open until very late at night.
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