Miami is known for its dynamic nightlife and sandy white beaches, but this vibrant city by the sea is also home to a fantastic culinary scene. No visit to Miami is complete without indulging in Cuban cuisine around Little Havana and along Calle Ocho. The iconic neighbourhood is a national treasure, a refuge for Cuban exiles who settled in Miami in the 1959, setting up restaurant establishments along the way.
Exploring Little Havana is like stepping back in time. The sound of drums echoes in the streets. Popular ventanitas (takeout windows) bustle with locals sipping on a morning cafecito (Cuban coffee). Cuban culture has played a pivotal role in the city’s history.
Taste your way around the area in just over two hours on the Little Havana Food & Cultural Tour. It’s a great way to get introduced to some Cuban cuisine and learn some interesting facts from your guide. The first bite of the classic Cuban sandwich (known as the Cubano) served at Old Havana Restaurant is topped with ham, pork, swiss cheese and pickles. It pairs perfectly with a Cuban classic, the mojito.
At Los Pinareños Fruteria, you can taste the island in the fresh sugar cane juice pressed right in front of you.
Versailles, a Little Havana staple that’s been around since 1971, claims to be the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant. A casual spot, with nothing fancy other than the rather ornate chandeliers dangling from the ceilings, it’s just a source for good, straightforward Cuban food and a go-to stop for locals and visitors to Miami. You can’t go wrong by starting with the yuca fries, served with cilantro sauce. Follow it up with The Criollo sampler plate, a mix of yellow rice, ham croquettes, beans, and so much more that you may not finish it all.
Cafe La Trova is a hip, retro dining spot on Ocho where all the action is. It features Cantinero-style bartending from founder Julio Cabrera and fabulous Cuban-inspired cuisine from James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein and her team. Feast on the lechón sliders topped with pickled onions or savour a classic cocktail as you listen to live music played by Trova musicians.
At one of Little Havana’s newest restaurants, Calle Dragones, the nightly cabaret creates a wonderful, almost seductive ambiance with live music. The fare is a mix of Asian and Cuban blended to create a unique flavour profile, such as the sea bass with a sweet and sour glaze, on top of an avocado poblano purée.
Chug’s Diner, not too far from Little Havana in Coconut Grove, or as the locals call it, The Grove, offers a taste of Cuban American dishes and is a must-taste stop for brunch while in town. Dine outside on the huge patio space and order the pollo a la milanesa, a Cuban spin on chicken parmesan. The portion is epic, as is the flavouring, and the medley of breaded chicken, butter hot sauce, prosciutto, and sweet plantains won’t disappoint.
Mayfair House Hotel & Garden is a tropical oasis in trendy Coconut Grove, Miami’s oldest neighbourhood, not far from Little Havana. It’s a lovely place to stay and explore the Cuban culinary scene. The hotel is teeming with lush greenery as well as orchids. After a day of dining, be sure to have a dip in the rooftop pool and a sip at the outdoor bar.