sloppy joes .org - The legendary Old Havana bar
Sloppy Joes Bar, Old Havana, Cuba

Sloopy Joe’s Bar History

Sloppy Joes in Havana, crossroad of the world
The mahogany large bar of Sloppy Joes in Havana

Sloppy Joe's was a Havana bar in the 30's. It was a property of Jose Garcia, located in the central corner of Zulueta and Animas Streets. The bar received this name because the place in principle was a mess and the sandwich served there was made of "ropa vieja". The sandwich was known as Sloppy Joe and it was also served in many variants, in several parts of the world. Jose Garcia arrived in Cuba coming from Spain in the year 1904. He began to work as a barman in a Havana bar located in Galiano and Zanja Streets. He stayed there for three years until he sailed away to the United States heading New Orleans. He also worked in that city as a barman for six years until he moved to Miami where he used to work in different bars during six years. In 1919, Jose Garcia returned to Havana and was employed as a barman at "Greasy Spoon" Café for about six months. He decided to open his own business and bought a grocery store along with a warehouse located in the corner of Zulueta and Animas Streets.


Some friends in Havana used to pay a visit to Garcia at his business, seeing the terrible conditions of the place asked him why it was so careless. Being him a Spanish and running such a careless place did not match. From that time on, the name of Sloppy Joe is worldwide known.


Famous people in Sloppy Joes in Havana
Front view of Sloppy Joes in Havana
The splendours Sloppy Joes in Havana

One of his usual clients was Ernest Hemingway. He visited Jose Garcia in several occasions with his pal, Joe Russell who was the owner of another Sloppy Joe's Bar in Cayo Hueso, a name Hemingway had suggested in honour to Mr. Garcia. The tourists that visited Havana during that epoch, mostly North Americans, preferred two places: Sloppy Joe's Bar, and the beautiful race horse track of Havana controlled by Meyer Lansky's mafia.


People who visited Havana during those decades of great splendour had to go to three different places when it was about food and enjoyment: "El Floridita" , "Sloppy Joe's Bar", and "La Bodeguita del Medio", otherwise, they wouldn't have visited Havana city.


Sloppy Joe's Bar was on its time a very popular place, not only appreciated for its fine drinks and liquors but also for its connotation of preferential atmosphere of attractive appointments, as well as for having the longest mahogany drinks cabinet of Cuba, and perhaps of the whole world. This bar had a great splendour in the 30's and 40's, and it was visited frequently by many Hollywood celebrities and international bohemian characters.


Among the most illustrious Sloppy Joe's Bar visitors were Ramon Jacinto Herrera "Ray Tico", John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Ignacio Jacinto Villa y Fernandez "Bola de Nieves", Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", Jose Antonio Mendez "The King", and many other personalities of the time.


In 1959, after the triumph the Cuban revolution, the mythical Sloppy Joe' s Bar was closed and abandoned together with its history.


The new Hotel Parque Central Torre, planned to be opened in early 2008, is its new neighbour. Let us hope soon Sloppy Joes will be restored and re-opened very soon too.