Non-governmental restaurants are a new development
In 2010, the government loosened restrictions on businesses, which paved the way for culinary entrepreneurialism in the form of private restaurants called “paladares." Most of these restaurants are family owned and operated affairs patronized by tourists and wealthier Cubans. Although nascent, the scene is full of passionate restauranteurs serving both heaping mounds of their native foods and more exotic foreign cuisines.
Food in the eastern region is much different from what's served in Havana
Head east of Camaguey into what's referred to as Oriental Cuba, and the cuisine takes on a much stronger creole influence marked by increased use of coconut productions (oil and milk), hearts of palm, and cacao.
Cuba invented the sloppy Joe
It devolved quite a bit on the way to school lunchrooms, but the Sloppy Joe sandwich originally dates back to the 1930s at Sloppy Joe's Havana Bar. The proprietor served a sandwich of Cuban picadillo made with ground beef, capers, and olives, which was exported by an American to a Key West bar named the Silver Slipper (eventually renamed Sloppy Joe's) in a sweeter ketchup-driven form without the Cuban ingredients. Visitors to Cuba can still find an OG version today at the Sloppy Joe's Havana Bar, which reopened in 2013 after being closed for nearly 50 years.
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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. Some of his best friends are Afro-Cuban LPs. Follow him to conga solos for days at @Dannosphere.