14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, 9 August 2023 — Despite the solid gray paint and rustic appearance, repairs to the facade of the old Varsovia (Warsaw) restaurant — located at the corner of 12th and 17th in Havana’s Vedado district – are a welcome sight. After several years of neglect, plans by a medium-sized private business to turn it into a food market are beginning to bear fruit. New equipment, shelving and furniture can already be seen through the glass windows.
The dilapidated neon sign bearing the name of the Polish capital has also been removed from the post at the corner as have the boards which the state used to shutter the windows.
The only thing missing from the interior, as far as this reporter can see, is the merchandise. Otherwise, it appears ready to open. Several wooden boxes, to be used to display bread, fruits and vegetables, have been configured into shelving. The frozen foods section looks ready and various machines have been installed.
The presence of a counter at the back of the store suggests that the owners of the converted space also plan to sell food and drinks to go. The premises also have air conditioning and are equipped with cameras.
Once known for its heavy red curtains, dim lighting and very formally dressed waiters, few vestiges remain of the central Havana establishment that once occupied the wide corner storefront. Though never of the same caliber as its neighborhood cousins — El Monseñor, El Conejito, La Roca, La Torre or the opulent Moscú — Varsovia did have its moments of splendor, offering a varied menu in the years of Soviet subsidies.
The economic crisis of the 1990s hit the business hard. Gradually, the façade lost its sheen, the menu got smaller and and potential staff lost interest in working in its increasingly dark dining room. By the time it closed to the public and was boarded up, the place was no more than a greasy spoon with the smell of burnt cooking oil and dirt everywhere.
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