When I started planning my trip to Miami there was only one thing on my mind – Cuban food. Locals say that the Cuban food in Little Havana actually rivals the food in Cuba. I’ve never been to Cuba but after eating my way through the neighborhood I can definitely take their word for it.
I tell you what, outside of hanging at the beach for a couple hours and hitting a couple of must do establishments like Joe’s Stone Crab (best spot for fresh Florida snow crab) and legendary dive bar Mac’s Club Deuce (ask for Allie, she kicks ass) I really didn’t spend much time on Miami or South Beach and I’m totally cool with that.
If you ever find yourself in Miami and are tired of paying $8 for a beer in South Beach and want to check out the local scene here’s what to do…
- Start at Versailles for breakfast. 3555 Southwest 8th St. Miami, FL 33145
Don’t go inside the restaurant, instead hang out at La Ventana (the walk up counter café) and chat it up with the locals. It will be crowded but there is really no line so just walk right up, get someone’s attention and order. Seriously, it’s like a free for all.
I recommend you definitely try a cortadido. It’s a very strong Cuban espresso made with evaporated milk. It’s small but don’t be fooled it’s all you need to get your day going. Along with that grab some freshly made pastries – guava pastelitos, croquetas, espinaca emapandas and ham and cheese empandadas are delicious here.
2. Next walk over to El Palacio de Jugos for their epic lunch buffet and a fresh fruit juice. 1545 SW 27th Ave. Miami, FL 33145
Every Cuban dish you have ever read about will be here and every fruit you can think of is made into a juice.
This is where I learned about mamey a delicious fruit that looks sort of like a papaya when you open it up. It’s grown in Central America and South Florida and tastes like a cross between a sweet potato and a melon. I like it because it has a creamy texture and is not too sweet. It is also jam packed full of nutrients.
3. After that take a walk down to Calle Ocho. SW 8th Street between SW 12th & SW 17th Ave.
This is the epicenter of Little Havana. Here you will find high end Cuban Cigar shops, restaurants and statues of chickens painted in beautiful colors on almost every corner.
4. Check out the old timers playing dominos at Maximo Gomez Park A.K.A. Domino Park. On the corner of Calle Ocho and 15th Ave.
5. Order a mojito and hear some live Cuban music at Ball and Chain. 1513 SW 8th St. Miami, FL 33135
6. And then grab a frita con queso at El Rey de las Fritas. 1821 SW 8th st. Miami, FL 33135
It’s the Cuban version of a hamburger. A well seasoned patty on a sweet bun stuffed with crunchy shoestring fried potatoes.
7. On another day (or the same day if you like to get after it like I do) I recommend checking out the neighborhood of Wynwood. Here you will find Wynwood Walls, a collection of warehouses in the center of town filled with street art murals painted by artists from around the world. There’s also good shopping and food in this ‘hood as well. 2520 NW 2nd Ave. Miami, FL 33127
8. A little off the beaten path but not far from the Walls is Enriqueta’s. 186 NE 29th St. Miami, FL 33137
This is where you come for your Cuban sandwich or Media Noche (a Cuban sandwich served on a sweet roll) or anything else Cuban you would like. The menu is solid and the service is sweet. We ate at the counter where you can talk it up with the locals and friendly staff.
9. Save some room for dessert and grab a slice of pie afterward at Fireman Derek’s World Famous Pies. His key lime is insane. 2818 N. Miami Ave. Miami, FL 33137
Miami is unique place. Never been anywhere like it. The awesome art deco buildings make you feel like you have been frozen in time. The beaches are big and beautiful, the ocean is warm and you can order a beer right on the beach. Most of the bars are open until at least 4 or 5am and people are out partying every night. There is a ton of beautiful art everywhere you go and the Cuban food in Little Havana of course, is epic.
One last tip, the “slow” time to go is right after spring break until November because it gets hot. Flip side though is a little less traffic, a little more room on the beach and a few less people in the bars. We went in April and it was perfect.
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.