By Alexander Britell
Was that Manu Chao?
It sure sounded like him, coming from the far back corner of the second floor of a tucked-away paladar in Havana called La Familia.
La Familia wasn’t one of the more famous paladares, or private restaurants, in the capital; it was simple, hidden away upstairs off a side street in Havana.
And this wasn’t Manu Chao, of course. But it sounded like him, because even in small, secluded restaurants in Cuba you will find greater musical talent than anywhere you have ever been.
And you will often find simple, authentic, home-cooked food like that at La Familia, home to excellent tamales, beans and very good grilled chicken that will remind you that the people cooking for you are not professionals — they are people who love to cook.
Not everything is terrific, but that’s to be expected in a place where restaurants are a relatively new concept. But order some of the grilled chicken and some beans and wash them down with a cold Cristal and you’ll be very happy.
And you will often find great bars, home to the Cuba Libres that are famous in Cuba because they’re not made with Coca-Cola, but often with the country’s Ciego Montreo brand. It isn’t coke, but it actually combines for a tastier cocktail – a little more syrupy, a little sweeter and a cola that combines rather well with Havana Club.
You will find all of these things — if you can find La Familia.
All you have to do is walk down the street and listen for Manu Chao.