Cuba's 76-year-old restaurant still a tourism magnet
28th Apr, 2018 | Tourism Mail Crew
HAVANA, Apr 28: It is not easy to get a table at Havana's storied eatery La Bodeguita del Medio, which has been operating for 76 years and yet remains a tourism magnet.
While most restaurants enjoy a period of popularity before fading away, Bodeguita's fame only seems to grow with time.
Beyond its delicious Cuban fare and ideal location in Havana's Old Quarter, Bodeguita has American writer Ernest Hemingway to thank for its international renown.
It's eight different rooms bustle daily with Chinese, Japanese and European customers, as well as the occasional U.S. visitors undaunted by their country's travel restrictions and warnings.
"This is a magical place," Romina Portuondo, an Argentine university teacher here on vacation, told Xinhua.
In 1942, Angel Martinez brought out the small La Bodeguita del Medio in Empedrado Street. He sold drinks and groceries out of his inn, while his wife cooked typical Cuban dishes for a few diners, such as writer and publisher Felix "Felito" Ayon, who often lunched there with his colleagues.
La Bodeguita laid claim to being the birthplace of the Mojito, Cuba's national drink made with white rum, sugar cane juice (or just sugar), lime juice, a sprig of mint and a splash of soda.
An avid drinker, Hemingway dropped in regularly for one of his favorite cocktails Mojito and immortalized his routine with the words: "My Mojito in La Bodeguita, my Daiquiri in El Floridita."
A few blocks away, El Floridita is another popular stop on travel itineraries.
Felito, who installed his printing press next to Martinez's store, is credited with coming up with the name.
The spot became a kind of office for Felito, who would tell people to meet him at the "bodeguita (little bodega) in the middle of the block."
Over the years, a steady stream of celebrities have passed through Bodeguita's doors, such as writers Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, American actor Errol Flyn, painter Wifredo Lam, Mexican singer-songwriter Agustin Lara and French actress Brigitte Bardot.
Two tables are always symbolically reserved -- one for Nicolas Guillen, a Cuban poet, and another for Nat King Cole, the legendary American singer -- and the walls are covered with autographs and photographs, turning the place into a repository of collective memory.
Today, Bodeguita has outposts in other countries, from Colombia to Spain, France, Germany, Britain, Ukraine, Lebanon and Australia, among other parts of the planet.