|As Cuban As Fifty Years Ago|
When one talks about good, spontaneous Cuban cooking, generously served; when you ask about a place where you are always welcome, the aroma of Cuban seasoning, the swaying of a creole woman or the strumming of a "sonero" (popular dance-music performer), you will, no doubt, be directed in one way.
Very near the Cathedral Square, half way down Empedrado Street, right there where it has been standing for fifty years: La Bodeguita del Medio.
What started as a grocery store in 1942 under the name of La Casa Martinez, became a restaurant after World War II, turning into a favorite meeting place for poets, newspapermen, intellectuals and bohemians who were interested in having a good time and trying to "fix the world" while drinking "mojitos" and eating appetizers, rather than in the menu, which was quite scanty by then. But Martinez's ability for business and the satisfaction of gathering his friends into a big family, made him open a special typical cuban dishes area in the back of the store. Thus, the world-famous Bodeguita del Medio came into existence. Politicians, MPs, art celebrities, intellectuals, sportsmen and gourmets have all enjoyed our "sleepy black beans", roast pork, fried green bananas, jerked beef and many more traditional Cuban dishes which are as Nicolas Guillen (our national poet) once put it, "overflowing with surges of aged rum", and of course dressed with the most genuine inspiration of "soneros" and troubadours (poet-musicians).
The enchantment of La Bodeguita del Medio, today included in the exclusive offer by the Gran Caribe Hotel Group's Division of Excellence, has lured such noted figures as Brigitte Bardot, Pablo Neruda, Hemingway, Nat King Cole, Gabriela Mistral, Torrijos, Salvador Allende, Palomo Linares, Cortazar, Bennedetti, Garcia Marquez, Errol Flynn, Benny More, Rita Montaner, Bola de Nieve, Perez Prado, Alejo Carpentier, and also the Infanta Maria Cristina de Borbon.
Walls that refuse to be forgotten are living witnesses of innocent pranks, sensuality and joy experienced here under the notes of old songs immortalized by Carlos Puebla while evoking the best of the 1950s and 1960s. In 1992 it was distinguished with the Best of the Best Five Star Diamond prize by the North American Academy of Gastronomic Sciences as the best typical Cuban food restaurant. Today it is still the same cosy home-like restaurant where everything but unhappiness is permitted. If you have not yet enjoyed and savored the delicious Cuban dishes at this restaurant, you still have time to raise your "mojito" and toast as Guillen did to "the repeating of History and La Bodeguita del Medio always being the same".
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