Sloppy Joe’s is a historic bar located in Old Havana and one of the must-visit places in Cuba. The landmark sandwich shop opened in the 1930’s. It is believed that the name originated from the unkept nature of the restaurant or the fact that it had “ropa vieja” Spanish version of a sloppy joe as the featured dish.
Over the century, the bar became a popular hangout spot among Hollywood celebrities, international artists and American tourists. Even Ernest Hemingway was said to have frequented the bar often, befriending the owner Jose Garcia. Sloppy Joe’s has been described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most famous bars in the world” with “almost the status of a shrine.” The bar, in its heyday, can be seen in the movie “Our Man in Havana” starring Alec Guinness.
The cozy bar was known to have the longest mahogany drinks cabinet of Cuba, and still retains its charm after careful renovations. Sloppy Joe’s was shut down in 1959 during the Cuban revolution, but is now open for business. It reopened in April 2013, after 48 years, just in time for my visit to Havana. The new Sloppy Joe’s is made to look like a replica of its 1950’s version with black and white interiors, photos of celebrities and walls adorned with every imaginable variety of spirits. They even offer polaroid photos of guests at the legendary bar.
Go Eat Give volunteer vacationers enjoyed an evening of cocktails, small plates and sandwiches stepping back into time and imagining the splendor of this once all-American hangout. If you visit Cuba now, you should make it a point to step inside Sloppy Joe’s and have an overpriced drink or two. The food is typical of what you would find at a touristy restaurant, so perhaps take your appetite for an authentic Cuban sandwich someplace else in Havana.
Sloppy Joe’s located on the corner of Calle Animas and Zulueta in Havana Vieja (Old Havana). The entrance is next to the Plaza Hotel.