HAVANA TIMES — “Doña Laura” is a privately-owned cafe that’s very successful right now. It’s located on F Street, between 21st and 23rd streets, in Havana’s downtown Vedado district.
I remember when it opened several years ago. Back then they only sold sandwiches and soft drinks. Now it’s probably one of the best places to eat in a several mile radius, better than other private operations or state-run restaurants, regardless of the type of food they serve.
Its dishes consist of acceptable quantities of reasonably priced and well-seasoned Creole food. It’s only troublesome features — details that confine it to the status of “cafeteria” — is that it doesn’t have waiters and the food has to be eaten standing up.
You have to go up to the counter to place your order and then pick up your food there, which you have to eat and/or drink at other bars set up for those purposes. The owners are there on site, controlling the work of the employees, who handle the food carefully and agilely.
The service is fast, no matter how complicated the order. This is why every time I’m in the area with an appetite and enough money, I stop by “Doña Laura’s” – where I always leave satisfied.
For years living on a rice and beans diet, Doña Laura’s menu is very special.
Most food-service operations in Havana can’t measure up to its variety of dishes. Even when its competitors provide good service, either their prices are too high or the hygiene and the quality of their meals are poor. But none of that happens at “Doña Laura.”
Not far from there, simple milkshakes are sold for 25 pesos (about 1$ USD), sandwiches for 35 pesos and a light meal for 60.
With that same amount of money, at the “Doña Laura” cafeteria one can order a plate of “congri” rice and beans with shredded beef, a moderately-sized mixed salad, root vegetables, a tamale, two fried eggs, a plate of yuca (cassava) and chicharrones (pork skins), and two glasses of guava juice.
I’m not particularly interested in praising the work of any specific individual(s), but I do like to note it when things that are done in a quality manner, because despite all the changes being made in the regard, most are still poor.
At “Doña Laura,” lots of students take care of their lunch problem without having to spend 60 pesos. With only 18, one can order a tamale (in leaves or a casserole), along with a fried egg and a glass of guava juice. Undoubtedly, that’s a better lunch than the classic little plate of rice and beans.
“Doña Laura” sells large quantities of food every day. It charges the prices I mentioned, but I’m sure it turns a healthy profit.
My question is: If they are in fact making such profits, why can’t a government owned café offer a similar menu with good quality and even better prices?