If you’re looking for a lively environment where you can sample distinct cocktails, hear some music, and grab a bite while enjoying a bit of Cuba in Florida, make your way to Havana Beach Bar and Grill. Modeled after Ernest Hemingway’s favorite old-town Havana, Cuba haunt, El Floridita, Havana Beach Bar and Grill in Rosemary Beach has taken a page from his playbook. His love of good food, boisterous gatherings, and thirst-quenching libations play a part in the new Hemingway-inspired menu.
“With every element within the restaurant, we want to tell a story, just like Ernest Hemingway did, through his writing process. We curate every aspect of that experience to convey that narrative,” said Kevin Dixon, Director of Food and Beverage for The Pearl Hotel/Havana Beach Bar and Grill.
Hemingway was famous for his pursuit of a life well-lived. His joie de vivre is honored on the menu with section names that coincide with his most famous works. “The Sun Also Rises” is a playful nod to breakfast that includes offerings like the Stuffed Torrejas, made with vanilla-cinnamon custard brioche bread, guava cream cheese, fried plantain, caramelized pecan, and warm dulce de leche or the Ropa Viejo hash which Executive Chef Matthew Rolens said, “pairs exceptionally well with the Havana Beach Bloody Mary.”
“A Moveable Feast” brings shareable plates like Rolens’ favorite, the Oysters de Antigua. “Roasted and combined with tamarind and coconut flavors, these tasty bivalves make the perfect pairing to our Hemingway Daiquiri,” says Rolens. “Green Hills” features salads like Papa’s Garden, a bounty of mixed greens, baby heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, pickled red onion, and pepita, all dressed in a Parisian vinaigrette that calls to Hemigway’s time as an expatriate in France.
The handheld and burger section is whimsically titled “For Whom the Bread Tolls” and includes the popular El Supremo Cubano, as well as a riff on a classic Cuban sandwich, the Pollo Frito Cubano—layers of fried chicken breast cutlet, jalapeno, cucumber-jicama slaw, Swiss cheese, and mojo aioli are piled up on a toasted Cuban roll.
Dinner heralds “Old Man & the Sea” and “Hemingway on Hunting,” homages to the author’s great love of fishing and hunting. Starters include Caribbean-leaning Havana Ceviche Atún, a refreshing mix of key lime-coconut marinated tuna, red onion, mango, sweet and hot peppers, fresh herbs, toasted coconut, and fried plantains for scooping. For a reel call to Hemingway, don’t miss the Grouper de Santiago, blackened grouper served with Carolina gold rice, sofrito black beans, fried okra, fried green tomato, and pickled corn relish—it’s named after the titular character who wrestles with the great fish in Old Man and the Sea.
For Rolens the choice of entree is easy, “The Whole Fish Catch of the Day is an experience you won’t regularly find in South Walton. We serve whatever fish has been caught locally that day, marinate it and lightly fry it to maintain its tenderness and serve it escabeche-style, a Caribbean preparation that includes pickled vegetables and spices. It’s mouthwatering delicious!” Rolens also suggests the La Perla del Sur Ribs for something with more of a meaty Southern take that pairs deliciously with the Ernest Intentions cocktail.
Speaking of fabulous drinks, the cocktail program at Havana Beach Bar and Grill stands out. Rolens elaborated, “Inspired by 1950s Havana, our signature cocktail menu offers classic favorites with a Caribbean twist. These include the Hemingway Daiquiri (a longtime guest favorite) and the Banana Boulevard. Whether you’re eating, toasting or both, we hope this menu provides a vibrant taste of the past. Additionally, to accommodate the dietary restrictions of all of our guests, our menu offers several gluten-free options, and our team is always happy to make modifications based on guests’ needs.”
Each bite from this reimagined menu unfolds pieces of Hemingway’s story as a diner, drinker, and seeker of sensory delight. The space, like Havana, Cuba, is deeply storied with its dark mahogany woods, bongos made into light fixtures, moss green leather banquettes, coffee-colored accents, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The leathered coasters with Hemingway’s famous line, “Write drunk, edit sober” add one more detail to Havana’s narrative.
For Rolens, Havana Beach Bar and Grill, and especially the new Hemingway-inspired menu, offers approachable food, served in an environment that celebrates the dining experience. He added, “On select evenings, our house pianist provides a lovely soundtrack for the dining room, and the bar area is always energetic and inviting. We like to mix in a sense of family and fun with our refined dinner service. Whether joining us for a night on the town, a special occasion, or a laidback brunch any day of the week, we pride ourselves in providing guests with a welcoming and memorable experience.”
Drawing equally from the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, “Havana Beach’s menu is sourced as close to the ground, as close to the water, and through the woods as possible. When you dine here, consider each bite a story, each course a new chapter to dive into and each visit a journey.”