- El Templete, Havana (tel. 7/866-8807): This is truly fine dining portside in Old Havana, with outside seating with roadside and harbor views and sophisticated interior dining.
- Restaurante Castropol, Havana (tel. 7/861-4864): This is an architecturally bland yellow building on the Malecón, but it is nonetheless a surprising and welcome culinary find.
- Gringo Viejo, Havana (tel. 7/831-1946): This homey paladar, decorated with knick-knacks, serves delicious food -- including options for vegetarians.
- Roof Garden Restaurant, Havana (tel. 7/860-8560): The creative French-inspired menu and stunning setting make this probably the best high-end dining option in Havana. Try for a window table on the elevated area ringing the restaurant.
- La Cocina de Lilliam, Havana (tel. 7/209-6514): Lilliam Domínguez has raised the bar for paladares around Havana. Her delicious criolla cooking always makes the most of whatever ingredients are locally available, and her softly lit garden setting is stunning.
- La Fontana, Havana (tel. 7/202-8337): This paladar serves up delicious international cuisine in an alfresco dining area with a waterfall and a fish pond. Service is classically old-fashioned and welcoming.
- La Fonda de Mercedes, Las Terrazas (tel. 8/57-8647): Working out of her apartment's simple kitchen, Doña Mercedes Dache serves up wonderfully prepared criolla cuisine. Meals are served on large tables in an open-air terrace overlooking a mountain lake. If you come to Las Terrazas, don't leave without eating here.
- Paladar Estela, Trinidad (tel. 41/99-4329): A colonial house with a pretty garden patio dining area, this private home restaurant in the heart of the historic quarter of Trinidad serves epic proportions of well-prepared Cuban specialties.
- La Campana de Toledo, Camagüey (tel. 32/28-6812): Located on one of the most authentic and elegant colonial squares in Cuba, this handsome, rustic restaurant with a pretty patio is a great spot for a midday break from the heat or a relaxed dinner. Dishes are more imaginative than the basic Cuban fare at most state-run establishments.
- Restaurant Isabella, Camagüey (tel. 32/22-1540): This is the first state-run restaurant in Cuba to show any modern artistic flair; it's decorated with director's chairs and old film posters. If this isn't enough to entice you inside, you'll be lured in by the pizzas, which are huge, thin, and packed with ingredients.
- Hostal Florida Center, Santa Clara (tel. 42/20-8161): This is a popular casa particular serving dinners with enormous platters of delicious seafood and chicken, plus salads and fruit dishes. The garden is candlelit at night.
- La Colonial, Baracoa (tel. 21/64-5391): The government seems to support the competition of private restaurants only nominally, and this is the last surviving paladar in Baracoa. The nicely decorated colonial house easily outclasses the state-run options in town, and it has good service and a changing menu with several fresh fish dishes.
- Restaurant El Morro, Santiago de Cuba (tel. 22/69-1576): Perched along the cliff next to the El Morro fortress, with spectacular views of the Caribbean, this popular open-air restaurant is a good-value lunch spot. There are plenty of fish dishes and a fixed-price midday meal, all served under a canopy of hanging plants that help patrons beat the heat.
- ZunZún, Santiago de Cuba (tel. 22/64-1528): One of the few upscale dining experiences in eastern Cuba, this elegant restaurant has several small, private dining rooms scattered throughout a large 1940s house in one of Santiago de Cuba's most pleasant suburbs. Attention to detail and presentation -- dining elements seldom given much thought in Cuba -- are a welcome surprise. It's best known for its top-quality seafood.
- Paladar Salón Tropical, Santiago de Cuba (tel. 22/64-1161): One of the most elegant paladares in Cuba, this attractively decorated place offers a smorgasbord of tasty choices. It's just such a shame that the service is glacially slow.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.