The Cuban culture has given the world its finest cigars, some amazing music, rich and aromatic coffee, and food that’s a fusion of tropical tastes and South American style. Your vacation to Miami is the ideal time to sample the finest Cuban cuisine available in the states.
Your visit to Miami is the ideal time to experience the finest Cuban cuisine available in the states.
Little Havana sets the stage for discovery. In this friendly, colorful neighborhood, you’ll likely spot people rolling handmade cigars and playing dominoes, while you hear lively conversations in Spanish and music pouring out of many a doorway. It’s here where you’ll find what is likely the most renowned Cuban restaurant in the country. Affordable, and still bearing the name of the failed French eatery that preceded it, Versailles is the beating heart of Miami’s Cuban community. A visit (and a meal, of course!) presents you and your gang with the opportunity for “total immersion” in the Cuban culture. Versailles is boisterous, fun, and has a huge menu brimming with traditional Cuban dishes along with lesser-known fare from the island to the south.
Versailles is rarely closed (3 meals a day, and open until 3 am!), so you might opt for a fluffy stuffed tortilla for breakfast, or sample some of the delicious bakery items, which are made right next door by the same owners. Cubanos know and love their sweets, their country being a hub of sugar cane production.
You’ve probably had at least one Cuban sandwich in your lifetime, and if you enjoyed the taste of hot roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles on pressed bread, Versailles certainly offers this classic for you to take delight in during your next vacation to Miami. For a heartier meal, consider churrasco (grilled meat, a South American staple) topped with chimichurri. This delicious green sauce is concocted of parsley, cilantro, basil, garlic and vinegar or lime juice. It’s often served with beef and is excellent for dipping, with a basket of hot, freshly baked bread.
Empanadas (turnovers filled with ham, beef, cheese or sloppy joe sauce) are another classic Cuban entrée choice, as is arroz con mariscos, which translates simply to “rice with seafood.” Cubans like octopus and squid, so ask your server what the seafood is, if you’re picky. Traditional sides include yucca (a root vegetable often prepared with lemon and garlic) and tostones, thick slices of green plantain, salted and fried. (Plantains may look like bananas, but they definitely don’t taste like bananas!) You can’t go wrong with sharing a crema catalana for dessert, the Cuban version of crème brulee.
For something quick and delicious during your vacation, head to 3guysfrommiami. A frita is a Cuban hamburger, and the restaurant name means King of the Hamburgers, an appropriate name, by all accounts. But before you picture the traditional American hamburger, know that what lies in store is a wonderful variation on our old favorite. Fritas have spiced patties cooked with a secret sauce and served piled high with onions and shoestring potatoes. . . not for the calorie counter or the delicate eater!
Cuban food has to be washed down with something tasty, and here’s a quick primer on what to expect in the way of beverages. The Cawy company can’t make enough lemon-lime sodas to keep Cubanos’ thirst quenched. They also make a delicious watermelon soda and quina beer, which is a cherry and orange flavored pop. Iron Beer (pronounced ee-run) tastes like Dr. Pepper, while Minerva is made from yerba mate leaves and tastes like ginger ale. Jupiña is pineapple soda, ironically much, much sweeter than guarapo, which is pure sugar-cane juice but has far less sugar content than soda pop. For alcoholic choices, order La Tropical or Hatuey (ah-tway) beer, or enjoy a classic mojito, made with rum, soda, sugar and mint.
If Little Havana is too far off your path, Versailles owner Felipe Valls owns no less than 18 eateries around metro Miami, including eight La Carreta restaurants. Get your Cuban fix upon flight arrival during your vacation, at the satellite Versailles inside MIA, or find the La Carreta that is also inside the airport terminal.