January 22, 2019 / Leave a Comment
Little Havana is one of the most purely enjoyable districts in Miami - a city which is, itself, subdivided into smaller areas that have a teeming life of their own. This area lives off the pumping artery which is Calle Ocho (or, 8th Street in Spanish), off of which are some of the best Cuban restaurants and bars in South Florida.
Little Havana is a cultural treasure - an authentic taste of Cuban life on American soil for those that don't have the liberty of being able to travel to Havana for the real thing. The area grew in the mid 20th-century in response to Cuban nationals finding refuge from the authoritative thumb of Castro - many leaving behind all wealth, all possessions, and any former belongings for a new start. As counter-revolutionary activity swelled, many left their homes thinking that the journey to Miami would be only temporary.
Today, Little Havana stands as one of the most charming and thriving areas in all of Miami - and one of our personal favorites. The vibrance, the energy, food, nightlife, and life that Little Havana possesses is addictive, and it's a must-visit location in Miami. When in Little Havana, of course, you would find yourself wise to enjoy a taste of true Cuban cuisine.
With great drinks and food all around you in Little Havana, here are a few dishes you simply have to have while in Miami!
The Original Cuban Frita
So - what is a "frita", you're asking? Simply put, it's an authentic Cuban dish consisting of a seasoned ground beef and pork patty (sometimes mixed with chorizo) on Cuban bread that is piled high with shoestring potatoes, onions, and ketchup.
All I can tell you is this - if there is one dish you get in Little Havana, you have to get an Original Cuban Frita. Oh, and there's only one place you should get it.
Enter El Rey del las Fritas.
This diner-style restaurant located on the western end of Calle Ocho in Little Havana, El Rey de las Fritas (or, The King of the Fritas - and trust me, they really are), El Rey de las Fritas is a place filled with locals who know their Cuban food around the clock!
There are variations around the Original Frita, but we suggest trying the original. I mean, could you possibly find a better meal for less than 4 bucks?
Make sure to head to El Rey de las Fritas - it's a Little Havana cornerstone of culinary excellence in a place that is quaint, familiar, and cheaply priced. You won't find a better meal anywhere!
Confession - the Medianoche is our favorite sandwich. It doesn't matter where, and it doesn't matter when. I don't know what could possibly be better, despite its simplicity, than sweet Cuban break caressing sliced ham, pulled mojo pork, swiss cheese, mustard and pickles.
So, where do you get this delicious sandwich? Our favorite is at El Pub, next to the Visitor's Center in the middle of Calle Ocho in Little Havana. El Pub is a small restaurant with regular live music, dozens of famous Cuban classics that also include some of the best mixed drinks (yes, including Mojitos) in Little Havana!
Empanadas are a cuban staple, and you can't find a bad one in Little Havana. While admittedly the only ones we have had have been at El Exquisito and El Pub (if you can't tell, we really, really like El Pub), we would imagine that anywhere in Little Havana is going to do it right.
However, doing what we did isn't such a bad idea - sit down on the outdoor patio on a warm Miami day, order empanadas, medianoche, and a mojito, and top it off with a couple of Hatuey beers!
Churrasco with Chimichurri
While "churrasco" can really refer to any type of grilled meat across Latin America, Cuban Churrasco typically identifies as a thin cut of delicious outside skirt steak with chimichurri. Typical sides? Black beans, dirty rice, and all the Hatuey beers you can stomach!
Our favorite place for a big meal like this is El Cristo Restaurant, located right across the street from El Pub. It is one of the best steaks we've had in South Florida - and it's reasonably priced!
Is it food? No - but it pairs with it really nicely, and if you're in Little Havana you must have one! Mojitos can be found anywhere along Calle Ocho, but there's one place we found that we love that is modern, while still retaining that unique Cuban vibe.
This bar and restaurant, located about halfway down Calle Ocho, gets busy early and stays busy! It's a gorgeous mixology bar that makes legit Cuban food, as well as providing you with some of the best Mojitos in Miami! It has a 50s and 60s vibe, with a huge back area that is uncovered, providing a semi-auditorium type of feel to the restaurant.
It's truly a great place on Calle Ocho!
It's the obvious answer, but can you really go to Little Havana without having a traditional Cuban Sandwich?
A great place to get an authentic Cubano, which is similar to the Medianoche aside from the flavor of the bread, is La Carretta, located on the eastern end of Calle Ocho. It's a simple and delicious sandwich, and an absolute cornerstone of quick and tasty Cuban eats!
While you're in Little Havana, you'll find numerous other dishes and meals that you'll be blown away with. From Ropa Vieja to Vaca Frita, Little Havana has numerous restaurants all along Calle Ocho that will guarantee you a great meal, even better scenery, and of course the type of vibrant experience that only Miami can offer!
Useful Travel Resources for Miami
South Florida Map – Plan your trip around South Florida with this handy map
RentalCars.com – Great site for comparing rental car prices
Skyscanner.net – Our favorite place to book cheap airline flights
Expedia.com – Book affordable accommodation or bundle flights and hotels in South Florida.
Recommended Guidebook: Fodor's South Florida: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and The Keys
Suggested Reading: The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami