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THE BEST: Cuban Food in Miami


lambretta76
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I imagine that many travellers to this city with more of an eye on food than the South Beach scene are primarily interested in where to get some great Cuban food. I've seen mentions in several posts, but there hasn't been a definitive thread. So, could some of you Miami locals (and anyone else with an opinion) chime in with what you think might be the best Cuban food (be it hole-in-the-wall, upscale, sandwich shop, etc.) in Miami.

On this topic, perhaps someone could thrown in the best places to get cubanos and cafe con leche, too.

Thanks!

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I've only been to two places, and my experience with Cuban food is limited to those two, but they're both quite good to my novice palate.

My favorite is La Puerta Sagua on South Beach. It is a hole-in-the-wall, excellent ropas viejas. Also convenient because it's across the street from a city parking garage (nothing like the rest of the South Beach scene).

Versailles, the most famous Cuban place here, I think, is also good and seems to be frequented by Cubans. The restaurant is very good with a large selection. Next door, the bakery is incredible. They have excellent pastries and sandwiches. (They also make amazing wedding cakes.) The cafe con leche is great.

Oh, I've also been to a place on Coral Way that was tasty, but the name is slipping me.

At Versailles, the servers usually speak English, but I've mostly ordered in Spanish or by number at the other two. The menus have the English and Spanish together, so it's easy. :smile:

"God give us good taste, why bother?" Captain Jim's Sushi Chef
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You're gonna kill me for saying this but I'm gonna say it anyways. Some places do a better job preparing it than others but Cuban food in Miami is very similar to me regardless of where you go.

I think Versailles provides a complete "eating Cuban food in Miami" experience and I would reccommend that tourists go there. La Carretta (Multiple locations) is another good option for neighborhood Cuban fare.

These links should help.

http://icuban.com/3guys/dining.html

http://icuban.com/3guys/juices.html

South Florida

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I can add from personal experience that there is good Cuban food to be found at Little Havana on Biscayne Blvd around 127th street. Big place, big menu, lots of Cuban families, we've enjoyed it.

The 3 guys link in a previous post has more info.

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You're gonna kill me for saying this but I'm gonna say it anyways. Some places do a better job preparing it than others but Cuban food in Miami is very similar to me regardless of where you go.

I think Versailles provides a complete "eating Cuban food in Miami" experience and I would reccommend that tourists go there. La Carretta (Multiple locations) is another good option for neighborhood Cuban fare.

These links should help.

http://icuban.com/3guys/dining.html

http://icuban.com/3guys/juices.html

I won't kill you - I'll just say "ditto".

I lived in Miami for over 20 years - and I'm very familiar with Cuban food. It is not one of the world's most distinguished cuisines. Versailles is very competent (it's the place where politicians go to be seen) - and La Carreta is very typical. Recommend both. Robyn

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Che Tito's and El Rey De Las Fritas is on my list to try next. Although, Che Tito's is Argentine, not Cuban.

http://icuban.com/3guys/rey_fritas.html

http://icuban.com/3guys/che_tito.html

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OK, I'm from Broward county, next north of Miami-Dade (which I avoid like the plague) and it's been a looooong time, but there was a great little hole-in-the-wall place around the corner from the station where the Tri-rail ends and the Metrorail begins. Made the BEST media noche I've tasted in ages! (A media noche is a Cuban sandwich on a slightly sweet eggy long roll.) :wub: Almost made the trip worthwhile.

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I won't kill you - I'll just say "ditto".

I lived in Miami for over 20 years - and I'm very familiar with Cuban food.  It is not one of the world's most distinguished cuisines.  Versailles is very competent (it's the place where politicians go to be seen) - and La Carreta is very typical.  Recommend both.  Robyn

Agreed. Cuban food in Miami is great-but so is Venezuelan, Argentinian, Brazilian, Colombian, Peruvian, etc., and I think you'll find it more exciting as well. I mean I love Ropa Vieja (shredded pork stew) and Picadillo (Sloppy Joe?), but I also love arepas, moquecas, ajaii, cau-caus, etc. The Cuban scene at Versailles is great if you happen to know who all the local politicos, etc are, but if not, it won't mean much to you. Try El Pub on Calle Ocho-blikers, cops, real mamacita waitresses. Everything's translated, great daily specials. A little Spanish (por favor, gracias) goes a long way here. By the way, you can get a good Cuban Coffee at any gas station in Miami-it's that common. I get mine at the takeout window of my local supermarket, (80 cents) where they also make a terrific homemade curried goat stew. Try the North Beach area for more downhome fare, although I DO love Puerto Sagua, as it seems as though the countermen have been serving the same customers and smoking the same cigarettes for fifty years. Perfectly acceptable Cubans-2 blocks from the beach. Also David's 7 seat counter never disappoints. All I'm saying is don't expect to be knocked on your ass.

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So, could some of you Miami locals (and anyone else with an opinion) chime in with what you think might be the best Cuban food (be it hole-in-the-wall, upscale, sandwich shop, etc.) in Miami.

A very upscale place (but in no way pretentious or formal) is Chispa in Coral Gables, with seriously, seriously sensuous and delicious, lusty upscale Cuban food.

The website gives a perfect preview of what the place is like, and I took it as a dare; I've been back four times in the last two years on my trips to Miami - the food is that good. The wood oven roasted pork belly with clams, and the crab cakes (certainly the best I have ever eaten) are out of this world, but I've never had a dish here that wasn't sensational.

And the waitstaff is as knowledgeable about the foods as in any upscale restaurant I've ever found - in fact, they rival the staff at Mario Batali's restaurants for knowing every dish in detail, and for that matter, in friendliness and eagerness to please. And their attitude towards special requests is simply exemplary!

I realize I'm gushing, but this is a great restaurant. Normally, a website such as theirs would have turned me right off, but something about it intrigued me, dared me, and my reward was some seriously lusty food. There's a fairly serious Spanish wine list as well.

There's live music on Fridays (plus a dj) and conga band so loud that you cannot hear your waiter or dining companions, so be warned. But there's a very serious kitchen as well, and many other nights of the week to go.

This certainly may not have been what you had in mind when you asked. But if the website intrigues you, go for it! Above all, it's the food that is great.

Edited by markk (log)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Susan,

I have been an admirer of your posts and your photos for a long time!

I hesitated to post about Chispa the first and second times I went there, because I knew I'd sound like a crazyperson or an interested party (which I certainly am not - interested party, I mean)!

The first time I went, we had the roasted pork belly, the seared marinated octopus, and the Pulled Lechon Flatbread appetizer (the pork, figs, caramelized onions, and blue cheese turn out to be just a tad and-a-half too rich). I think that time we both had the daily fish special and the superb crisp, warm apple tarte for dessert, and went away so happy we went back the next night - and we were staying in Bal Harbour, so it was a good 40 minute schlep. The next night we had the same waiter, and he raved about the crabcakes, so we split a dinner portion to start, and as I say, they were the best crabcakes I've ever had - and we have done the same deal every time we've been back. I've also had the Paella, which is sensational.

I do like to eat, and I've done a lot of it in my life, and I consider this a great restaurant for many reasons - the food being the first two or three, but they are one of those places that really gets everything right.

If you do get down there, please post!

I wish I knew more places this good in Miami!

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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El Rey de Las Fritas on Calle Ocho (near El Credito cigar factory, but on the other side of the street) where I got the best Batido de Mamey EVER. It was so good I'm still dreaming about it all this long time later.

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El Rey makes fantastic batidos You could try the tamarindo too. It makes my mouth feel the astringency and sweetness just thinking about it!

edited by me to add: Calle Ocho is a one way street, if you see someplace that looks good to you, just park and walk!

Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

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El Rey de Las Fritas on Calle Ocho (near El Credito cigar factory, but on the other side of the street) where I got the best Batido de Mamey EVER.  It was so good I'm still dreaming about it all this long time later.

That sounds great - I love the batido de mamey at Snack City in Tampa and can't wait to try one down here. Gunabana (soursop) and avocado are other favorites, but I don't think Cuban places serve the avocado ones too often.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Alright - I'll try to get trip reports up in appropriate places.

Immediately after getting our rental car at MIA, we headed to Versailles. First off, the place is enormous. No problem with seating a party of six, though it did fill up by around noon.

We started with two orders of the fried calamari, which were among the best I've ever had - slightly spicy and nearly grease-free. My friend said that they were famous for them, and I was hesitant being that it's not a Cuban dish, per se, but they were great.

For lunch I had the cubano especial, which I assume to just be a larger version of their regular cubano. Just order a regular - the sandwich is stuffed thick with ham and pork. Very, very good, but I can't say it's the best I've ever had. (I like a little more garlic kick on mine.) The tostones were very good, and I asked for some mojo to dunk them in, also fantastic. My friend's raved about the Basque tortilla, which was an omelette with chorizo and peas, among other things. The scene-stealer of the day was the bolliche, a pot roast stuffed with chorizo. It was moist and flavorful - simply fantastic. I've not seen this on Cuban menus here in NYC and don't know if it's a faithful reproduction, but it was darned fine. A friend also had the ropa vieja which he really liked, but I did not try it.

We ordered a cafe con leche from the takeaway stand out front and got in the car to drive down to 13th St, where we ordered amazing batidos from Los Pinareños Frutería. At $2.50 a piece, these were amongst the biggest bargains in Miami. I had the mamey, while others sampled orange, mango, guava, and guarapo (sugar cane). I love mamey, and therefore thought mine was the best, though I really liked the guarapo one. They were sadly out of gunabana, which is another favorite of mine. I'd have to say that it's the best batido I've ever had, with the old standard being Snack City in Tampa.

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  • 3 years later...
Any updates? I'll be in Miami Beach but will have a car and would be happy to travel a bit. No fear of urban neighborhoods, either (I live in one :wink:).

There is not much new under the sun in the way of Cuban food in Miami that is not already covered on this thread. I think some of the best advice is in Miami Danny's post above which if I may paraphase is (1) Cuban food is often good but rarely ethereal; and (2) there's a lot more diversity and variety in the way of Latin American food in Miami than just Cuban.

Having said that, a few places that missed mention in this thread:

- Enriquetas, a simple Cuban place in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami (north of downtown, south of the Design District; a little rough but not "take your life in your hands" material during the daytime; plus it's a regular lunch joint for police officers). Best pan con lechon in town for my money. Closes early so it's mainly a lunch place. 2830 NE 2nd Ave.

- El Palacio de los Jugos, out in West Dade, I haven't been in ages, lots of fresh tropical fruits for juices and batidos, vendors selling food, etc.

- Sazon, in North Beach (on Collins near 71st Street). I like their garbanzos fritos studded with chorizo, and all the basics are done well.

- Ola, in South Beach. Chef Douglas Rodriguez was one of the original "Mango Gang" here in Miami, then opened up restaurants in NY and a few years ago returned to open Ola here. It's changed locations a few times and is more upscale, contemporary and pan-Latino.

Note also that the Coral Gables Chispa has closed.

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Even though it might not be the "best" Cuban food in Miami, I was taken here by Miami Danny within the past year. Good food, great value and an even better way to experience a certain element of Cuban culture in Miami.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Someone up thread mentioned a place on Coral Way.  If that was the Latin American Cafeteria  - it is also closed (used to serve great sandwiches).  Robyn

It may have also been Sergio's which is decent. The original owner of the Latin American Cafeterias, Luis Galindo, has more recently opened up at least one new one in West Miami, though I haven't been and haven't heard anything good or bad.

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Even though it might not be the "best" Cuban food in Miami, I was taken here by Miami Danny within the past year.  Good food, great value and an even better way to experience a certain element of Cuban culture in Miami.

Mitch: where's "here"?

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