Paladar (plural: paladares) is a term used in Cuba to refer to restaurants run by self-employers.  Mostly family-run businesses, paladares are fundamentally directed to serve as a counterpart to state-run restaurants for tourists seeking  a more vivid interaction with Cuban reality, and looking for homemade Cuban food.

 

Origin of the name

The term in popular usage has its origin in the Brazilian soap operaa Vale Tudo , shown in Cuba in the early 1990s. Paladar (Portuguese and Spanish for "palate") was the name of the chain of restaurants run by Rachel Accioli, the protagonist, played by Regina Duarte . The broadcast of that soap opera coincided in time with the first issue of licenses for self-employers’ work in Cuba, so Cuban popular culture designated the then-new type establishments by this name.

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History

Privately owned small restaurants have always existed in Cuba. Until the 1990s they were illegal, but the fall of the USSR  and onsquent economic crisis in Cuba  forced the government to make the economic reforms of 1993. One of the items in those reforms was the legalization of privately owned small businesses as restaurants.

Since its inception in the late 1990s, the paladares were subjected to limitations by the Cuban government concerning the amount and type of products they could offer, the hiring of labor force and the number of seats they could have. The process of renewal of the economic model started in 2010  led to a review of these measures,  resulting in a substantial increase in the number of paladares and the diversification of their proposals.

The models that emerge are quite diverse, ranging from the typical business set up in a family home, up to more elaborated variations including different types of cuisine in rooms specially designed or modified for the activity. Similarly, while most retailers offer Cuban food, and Italian food , which is very popular in Cuba, others have produced more ambitious projects combining local cuisine with Mediterranean and international elements.

The composition of the staff has also changed, moving from a model in which they were composed mainly of people united by family ties with a low level of professional training  to teams that integrate professional chefs, often with long experience in gastronomy with other specialties such as marketing, accounting, public relations, legal advice and more.   

 

Paladares Boca de Sama

Paladares Banes

Paladares Cienfuegos

Paladares Camaguey

Paladares Guardalavaca

Paladares Santiago de Cuba 

Paladares Havana

Paladares Trinidad

Paladares in Holguín