Save for Tampa (seriously, don’t sleep on Tampa) and a few communities outside Florida, Miami boasts unrivaled Cuban food in America. Since immigrants arrived en masse in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Miami’s Little Havana and satellite Cuban restaurants throughout the city have won the hearts and bellies of Miamians with delicious island cuisine. Many of those original establishments remain, still serving Cuban bread to be dunked in milky coffee for desayuno, Cubanos to fill up office workers at lunch (we won’t get into the Tampa vs. Miami sandwich debate), and ropa vieja late into the evening. There are even a few new kid eateries on the block worth checking out as well. Here are our favorite picks.
Versailles isn’t just a restaurant. It isn’t just a cafe. It’s an institution, a Calle Ocho landmark since 1971, an unquestionable icon of Cuban cuisine. The place is decked out with chandeliers and mirrors like the eponymous French palace, but the people who hold court there aren’t royalty; they’re Cubans old and young talking news and neighborhood gossip while snacking on an extensive menu of classic dishes and sipping cafecitos. Every Miamian and out-of-towner should visit and bend the knee at least once.
3555 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135
It’s common to see partiers carbo loading on yuca with garlic sauce at Exquisito before hitting Ball & Chain across the street, or others stopping by after dancing their hearts out to recover with a serious Cubano. The ventanita (a takeout window) at the cafe next door is also popular with locals and tourists stopping by for cafe con leche in the morning. The daily specials also feature a rotating cast of Cuban all-star dishes like tamal en cazuela and bacalao.
1510 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135
You only need to know one word of Spanish to have an amazing time at Islas Canarias: croquetas. Available at breakfast, lunch and dinner, the rich fried pockets of ham and béchamel (or chicken if you don’t dine on swine) land on nearly every table, and it’s not uncommon to see groups order up more immediately after devouring their first batch. Follow the croquetas with Cuban coffee to rouse yourself from the inevitable meat fatigue. The original location on Calle Ocho is no more, but the other two further west in Tamiami are still going strong.
Yes it’s in Wynwood and yes you will have to battle hipsters for a seat on weekends, but it’s all worth it to sample Enriqueta’s supremely delicious Cuban sandwich. You can go classic, or get the especial, which chefs load with a couple croquetas, the Cubano doble that doubles on the pork, or the media noche on the cafe’s pillowy sweet bread.
Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop
186 NE 29th St, Miami, FL 33137
El Mago de las Fritas
Here’s one thing you’ll learn in Miami: Cuban hamburgers > all other hamburgers. One of Miami’s signature dishes, el frita cubana is a magnificent pile of meat and fixins, and El Mago de las Fritas does it better than anyone. The magicians behind the counter spice up patties like chorizo with a special house blend, top it with raw white onions, ketchup and the characteristic julienned wisps of potato plopped on a soft Cuban roll.
5828 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33144
El Palacio de los Jugos
There are quite a few Palacios around town owing to the mini-chains’ popularity. Each location contains a collection of stalls, so you’ll have to order several times to get the full experience from all the vendors. Spanish is also helpful, though the servers are used to tourists simply pointing hungrily at items too. Portions are both ridiculously large and ridiculously cheap, but even gargantuan plates of chicharron and congri don’t stand a chance once you get one taste.
After all those sandwiches and croquetas, you’ll need something sweet to finish off your night. Luckily Calle Ocho is home to one of the best sweets shops in town, Azucar, which serves up a myriad of Cuban-ish ice cream flavors. Options commonly include dulce de leche, mamey, cafe con leche, and maduro, and a list of seasonal offerings rotate into the case too.
1503 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135