In bustle of Central Havana, lies one of the cities hidden gems. Toki-Ona Neptuno Bar is a open and inviting place to stumble upon. The building has breezy Spanish colonial design in which allows for crosswinds to cool off patrons sipping on their coffees or mojitos. The large bar and seating area can accommodate 70 or 80 of your closest friends.
Immediately upon entry, the bartender greeted us with a warm hello. We made the kind of small talk that makes a traveller feel like you have been transported to your favorite neighborhood bar. In this case it just so happens to be in Havana. One of the bartenders was kind enough to share with us the recipe to an old Cuban cocktail named “El Negron Cubano”. Which was delicious, by the way.
The crowd in the bar was a mixture of locals taking a break from work and a few tourist who were more on the adventurist side. Because of this dynamic, the bar is unpretentious. Even the music is content to hang out in the background as if it was listening to the nuances of your conversation. When the bar gets livelier, musicians brighten up the scene playing traditional Cuban son music.
If you happen to be in Central Havana and want to experience a slice of what life has to offer to locals, go the Neptuno Bar. It has great food, great drinks and a cool environment. A wonderful working class bar.
I have been traveling a lot these days. But everywhere I go, I seek out a familiar place. A place where people come and go but know the ends and outs of everyone’s lives. A place where people celebrate, mourn and unwind from a hard day’s work. I don’t call them dive bars because I feel these places are the sanctuaries of the working class. When I was in Savannah last week, I walked into the Original.
The Original is located only a few blocks away from the touristy downtown area but it’s a world of difference from the drinking establishments you would find on River St. It’s intimate U- shaped bar and cozy booths makes it a great place to let your hair down after your work shift. The music is rocking but not intrusive, perfect conversation level. The bar is full of old Pabst advertisements and one centrally placed ” I Closed Wolski’s” bumper sticker( FYI- Wolski’s is an awesome bar in Milwaukee everyone needs to close at some point). Drinks run from your classic domestic beers to classic cocktails. I must clarify , this not a cocktail bar where drinks are an artistic statement but more a bar with well crafted cocktails your grandpa still enjoys.
Behind the bar that evening was owner/bartender Matt Garappolo. With swift hands and great stories, Matt puts everyone at ease. This is the kind of place one would fall into becoming a regular.
Although the Original opened up this year, the bar is on the previous site of Pinkie Master’s. Pinkie Master’s was a neighborhood bar where the occasional politician may walk into. After a history that extended back 1953, the bar had several ownership changes until the final owner filed bankruptcy after a stabbing incident. Out the ashes of the Old Pinkie’s rose the Original. A great working class bar.