There are so many Cuban restaurants in Miami that it’s hard to figure out where to get the most authentic flavors of the island. Spread out all over Miami, the list of the best five are both on the mainland and over the Causeway.
The tried-and-true two — La Carreta and Versailles have to be on the list. Yes, it’s a bit cliche but the food at each is really authentic. And if anything, making this list is a testament to their longevity. There’s only one Versailles but there are several La Carreta’s so make sure to go the original one, with the wagon wheel out front, on Calle Ocho (SW Eighth St.) and 36 Ave. The bakery at Versailles as meeting place for many Miamians is a time-honored tradition as is a late-night dinner at La Carreta after a night of partying.
Habanero steak at Islas Canarias
Sergio’s on Coral Way and 32 Avenue is great for midnight sandwiches, an afternoon cafecito and their never fails, cure anything that ails you sopa de platano (plantain soup). While over at Islas Canarias in Kendall the croquetas are killer as are their stuffed tostones and paella.
And believe it or not, South Beach’s David’s Cafe II on Lincoln Road has excellent black beans and rice, picadillo and palomilla steak. A welcome authentic, Cuban restaurant that’s surviving among all the other nouveau cuisine places.
La Carreta, David’s Cafe, Sergio’s, Versailles, Islas Canarias
Miami-Dade professor Dr. Paul George is an iconic figure in the Miami community thanks to his popular walking tours of the city’s historic neighborhoods.
For more than two decades, Dr. George has shown tourists and locals alike what makes the Magic City tick when it comes to places like Little Havana the home of famed Calle Ocho, the Miami Cemetery where legendary Miami figures like Julia Tuttle are buried and the Miami River cruise along the historic body of water that meanders through the now skyscraper-like landscape of Downtown Miami.
His tours touch on the architecture of the area as well as the historic figures responsible for developing it; local black history; the influence of Al Capone and other mafia figures and historic events like the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The tours usually depart from History Miami located at 101 W Flagler St. 305-375-1492, www.historymiami.org
Little Havana is always a lively place but on the last Friday of every month it truly comes to life during Cultural Fridays, the monthly arts and culture festival held on historic Southwest Eighth Street, known as “Calle Ocho.”
Photo courtesy of Google Images
Set on the iconic three-lane, one-way stretch of road, the festival takes place along three blocks filled with art galleries, restaurants and performance stages. There are walking tours of the historic Little Havana homes led by renowned historian Dr. Paul George, tango classes at DAF Studio, an Art Fair at Domino Plaza, salsa dancing at El Pub Restaurant and lots and lots of art for viewing.
Eat at one of the many Cuban, Spanish and Latin American restaurants and dance the night away at one of the few nightclubs along Calle Ocho.
Cultural Fridays is every last Friday of the Month on Eighth Street from between SW 14th and 17th Avenues, 305-643-5500, www.viernesculturales.org
Once this place gets going, and since it’s Miami that means LATE, the island rhythms and heavy percussion that emanate from this tiny place in the heart of Calle Ocho in Little Havana are intoxicating. Hoy Como Ayer is a trip to the Cuban Havana of old with a blend of sounds from the present day hot Latin acts that have made a name for themselves in the Magic City.
Hoy Como Ayer (which means “Today Like Yesterday”) is consistently ranked by most local publications as the best place to catch Latin performers, because the best play here. Cuban-born singer Albita performs here regularly, the Latin-funk-fusion band DJ Le Spam, and the All Stars (they’re local faves and always pack the house), along with Luis Bofil and David Bisbal all grace the stage. It’s one giant jamfest here from Wednesday to Sunday and the drinks are, of course, the best, from refreshing Mojitos to the rum and cokes, better known in Miami as “Cuba Libre.”