It’s a hot time in Rosemary Beach. Havana Beach Bar and Grill lights up the cobblestone streets with live music, drinks that take you right to vintage Cuba, and an atmosphere reminiscent of El Floridita, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunt.
“El Floridita has been there for over 200 years in Havana, Cuba. In the 1930s and ’40s, Hemingway was there pretty often writing and having parties. It was really important to us to pay homage to that bar in that setting,” said Kevin Dixon, Director of Food and Beverage for The Pearl Hotel/Havana Beach Bar and Grill.
The spirit of Cuba can be felt in dark woods, bongos made into light fixtures, moss-green leather banquettes, coffee-colored accents, and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Rosemary Beach takes it up a notch with views of the emerald green Gulf Coast waters and sugar sand beaches.
The mosaic lights twinkle, and the feeling of sitting in a tropical paradise with a cafe con leche sets in. Everything is warm browns, creams, and lush greens; above, the ceiling features etched palm fronds. Images of Havana telegraph from the photos around the dining room and the classic architecture lend a stately elegance to the interior.
The crowd is lively on a recent Saturday night. Piano music spills out into the street and the bar is packed with bridesmaids, businessmen, and couples. I make my way to the newly remodeled lounge area. It’s luxe yet comfortable with eclectic seating and library shelves filled with odds and ends. The curtain separating the main dining room and the lounge provides some privacy for the small groups toasting with flutes of champagne and espresso martinis.
“We completed that renovation during the pandemic to provide lounge space for our guests to have a relaxed environment within the restaurant. The lounge was conceptualized by the hotel designers; it was very important that we provided a space that spoke to who we are as Havana Beach Bar and Grill. So we put in very large bookshelves filled with books, palm designs around the walls, and rattan furniture—the whole space really speaks to Havana, Cuba,” said Dixon.
Beyond the beautiful space, the drinks are delicious. The Canchachara refreshes with its mix of white rum, honey, lime, and falernum. And the Roseberry offers hints of lavender, cassis, and blueberries that tastes like summer in a glass. It helps that all bar mixers and infused spirits are made on-site.
“Our goal for our cocktail program is to be innovators within not just the 30A area, but the world. Every drink on our signature cocktail menu is invented by our mixology team—they’re completely unique to us. All of our juices that go into the cocktails are all squeezed daily. That freshness really makes a difference in cocktails. Even other ingredients that we use for our cocktail programs, like infused vodkas and flavored liquors, we process here on the property,” said Dixon.
But Havana is not just a great bar, the dining experience is also top-notch. The french toast features soft, eggy bread griddled and topped with a yummy butter-icing with lots of cinnamon. And it comes with real Vermont maple syrup, the king of all syrups. The eggs benedict have perfectly poached eggs that serve as soft pillows for the tangy hollandaise sauce.
At night the lounge has a lite bites menu with Nashville hot grouper that is not-to-be-missed and pimento cheese that reminds you we are in the South, y’all. If you stay at the hotel, a bonus upon check-in is a cigar box with a mound of that pimento cheese inside to welcome you, tying that Havana mystique to Rosemary Beach. Dixon elaborated, “The sense of place is really important to us. We want everything to flow seamlessly from our hotel to our dining experience.”
It’s obvious from the dinner menu that the team behind Havana is taking cues from the local environment. Grouper blackened and served with southern-style red beans, Carolina Gold rice, charred tomatoes, fried okra, and micro greens nods to our bountiful Gulf seafood. And the shrimp and grits, ubiquitous around the South, have a unique Havana twist with Anson Mills heirloom grits, Cochon andouille sausage, peppers, onions, and crawfish cream gravy. Dixon elaborated, “We listen to our guests to see what they want when they dine with us and overwhelmingly that’s local ingredients unique to our area here on the Emerald Coast. Our goal is to provide those beautiful ingredients, but do it in a way that is unique to our restaurant.”
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. Each space within the restaurant tells a story from the stately elegance of the dining room to the casual chic of the deck, to the intimate lounge, to the boisterous bar.
“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.”
Don’t miss the leathered coasters with Hemingway’s famous line, “Write drunk, edit sober.” They add one more detail to Havana’s story.