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Private restaurants finding success in Cuba

Private restaurants finding success in Cuba

Posted by Juan Gavasa on January 15, 2015

For decades, Cuba’s restaurant scene was one-dimensional and relatively uninspiring. Recently, however, there has been a shift in the country’s culinary scene due to the increase in private restaurants.

Havana is now home to nearly 2,000 private restaurants, bringing diversity and energy to the country’s restaurant scene. That’s a drastic increase from 2010, when the state reported there were just 74 private restaurants in the country’s capital.

While Havana was once limited in food choices, now you can find everything from Vietnamese restaurants to pizza joints.

Don’t expect to see flashy advertisements outside of these private restaurants, though. Many of these eateries are situated in private homes and are often only marked by small signs outside of the building.

Operating a private restaurant in Cuba requires a certain level of rule breaking. Most restaurateurs hire “mules” to travel to countries like Spain and Mexico to bring back exotic ingredients. The Castro regime’s strict regulations on private businesses have forced restaurateurs to get creative.

Since Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, took control of the government, the rules for restaurants have lightened up. The limit on chairs allowed in a restaurant has been raised from 12 to 50 and new licenses have been issued. However, there are still rules that must be bypassed in order to open a successful private restaurant in Havana.

Experts say that until the government further relaxes the rules and clarifies regulations, the local restaurant scene won’t be able to really flourish. That being said, the current culinary scene in Havana looks bright.

“Gastronomy is on the rise in our country,” Jorge Luis Trejo told The Miami Herald. Trejo’s parents are the proprietors of La Moraleja, a trendy restaurant in Havana that features menu items like chicken confit and rabbit flambé.

“We try to make traditionally Cuban dishes with fusion sauces to entertain our clients,” Trejo said. His family’s restaurant opened back in 2012.

Private restaurants emerged onto the Cuban culinary scene in 1993 just as the Soviet Union collapsed. The growth of the private restaurant scene was quickly stunted by the Castro regime, however.

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