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article imageReview: Cuban food, music and culture at ‘La Bodeguita del Medio’, Havana Special

By Igor I. Solar     Nov 1, 2013 in Travel
Havana - It started as a small neighbourhood market located half a block from Cathedral Square in Old Havana; seventy years later it is still the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant visited by great personalities from Nobel laureates to renowned politicians.
"La Bodeguita Del Medio" (Spanish for “The Little Warehouse in the Middle”) was founded in 1942. It is located at 207 Empedrado Street in Havana, Cuba. At first, the owner Angel Martínez named his little shop “Casa Martínez”. The store sold mainly Cuban typical products. Occasionally some dishes were prepared and served to regular customers and friends.
From 1949, with the arrival of an inspired cook, the place became a successful restaurant. The story goes that it was Angel Martinez who invented the famous Cuban cocktail which he called “Mojito”. The concoction became a success and, along with the tasty meals and live music, “Casa Martínez” became an ideal place to enjoy evenings and nights full of flavour in an unbeatable Cuban atmosphere. In April 1950, the restaurant was officially named "La Bodeguita del Medio", also known as "LaBdelM".
 La Bodeguita del Medio  at 207 Empedrado Street  Havana  Cuba.
"La Bodeguita del Medio" at 207 Empedrado Street, Havana, Cuba.
Soon the place started to be frequented by politicians, intellectuals and musicians. During the second half of the twentieth century it became a center of cultural life in Havana and a definite attraction for world travellers. Many distinguished visitors were invited to leave a message on a frame or directly on the walls. Among those who have left their mark at La Bodeguita are several Literature Nobel Prize laureates, including American novelist Ernest Hemingway, Chilean poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, and Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez. Other prominent visitors to La Bodeguita have been Salvador Allende, Nat King Cole, Marlene Dietrich, Brigitte Bardot, Nicolás Guillén, and many other famous artists and politicians.
At the time I visited La Bodeguita, about mid afternoon, the place was crowded. A group of musicians was playing “Buena Vista Social Club” tunes with customers singing along and some of them even dancing in the aisles (see video below). The place is rather small, but certainly a lot of fun to visit, even if just to try the renowned Mojito cocktail.
Cuban music band performs at  La Bodeguita del Medio . The white message at the top-right is from fo...
Cuban music band performs at "La Bodeguita del Medio". The white message at the top-right is from former Chilean President Salvador Allende: it says: "Viva Cuba Libre, Chile espera" June 28, 1961 (The free Cuba lives - Chile waits.)
Bartender at  La Bodeguita del Medio  in Havana prepares mojito cocktails to meet heavy demand from ...
Bartender at "La Bodeguita del Medio" in Havana prepares mojito cocktails to meet heavy demand from customers.
Although the exact origin of the Mojito cocktail is the subject of controversy, La Bodeguita lays claim of having created the internationally known beverage. The mix contains only five ingredients: white rum, sugar (or sugar cane juice), lime juice, sparkling water, and mint leaves (usually spearmint or yerba buena, a local mint variety). To learn how to prepare a typical Cuban Mojito, visit this site.
More about La Bodeguita del Medio, Havana Cuba, Old Havana, Ernest hemingway, Salvador Allende
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