There’s always going to be something to love about a restaurant in a house as beautiful as this one, but the food at Hemingway’s didn’t used to match the same standard as the charming teak mansion.
After ditching the original chef, they’ve re-launched with a completely overhauled menu that’s as much Tex-Mex and comfort food as it is Cuba-Florida. Think nachos, fajitas, pizzas, burgers and ribs as well as seafood with various Latin-American influences. It doesn’t scream Ernest Hemingway as loudly as the rest of the branding, but it’s basically the stuff most people want to eat.
To that end, the restaurant does a fairly decent job at prices no one but the tightest diner could complain about (our oversized meal for two with a couple of stiff drinks fell short of B2,000). There are also loads of different happy-hour and food promotions, so turn up at the right time and you can really dine at this place for a song. On a late Sunday afternoon, it seems many got the message, since the outdoor bar is packed and lively with Western expats, while a few Asian families are already seated in the dining room.
The food menu’s most extensive section is its small plates, which are also where Hemingway’s does its best work. The Albondigas Criolla (Cuban meatballs, B150) are excellent—bigger than expected and served in a sharp, intensely-flavored tomato stew. Likewise the beef sliders (B160) are so tasty we regret not ordering the proper-sized burger.
But it’s not all good. The nachos (B280) are perfunctory at best, benefitting as much from the delicious tomato salsa as they are let down by a tasteless salsa verde. The half rack of ribs (B360) is not far off a disaster, nowhere close to the decadent, sticky treat you might expect. A fine barbecue sauce can only do so much to help the dry, gelatinous meat, especially when used so sparingly. But a rich, heavy and, again, heftily portioned slab of cheesecake with passion fruit sorbet (B190) does much to bring about forgiveness—even when it is the only dessert we ask for that’s not out of stock.
So, yeah, come to Hemingway’s at the right hour of the day, pick whichever drinks are on promo (the cocktail list holds few surprises but does a good Mojito at B240), stick to the small plates, and you’ll see why so many people go in for this slice of Key West transplanted to Asoke junction.