Miami is party central, but it’s also a food lover’s paradise!
Miami. The music, the colors, the clothes, the nightlife… the food! Glitz and glamour are certainly everywhere you look in Miami, but all too often, the best spots are overlooked. Venture down to Little Havana, just minutes from downtown Miami on Southwest Eighth Street, also known as Calle Ocho ("Eighth Street" in Spanish) between 12th and 18th avenues. And don't worry about breaking the bank. Everything you eat will be inexpensive, delicious and memorable.
Any of the walk-up counter windows on Calle Ocho will sell a cafe cubano or cafecito for less than a dollar. Served in tiny Styrofoam cups, these little espresso treats will wake you up and have you ready for the day! Toss back a couple and prepare to nibble your way through Calle Ocho. While standing outside of the ventanas (windows), you will be certain to get caught up on all of the gossip, not to mention political opinions. A "can't miss" on Calle Ocho is the famous Versailles Cuban Restaurant. Try la ventanita (the little window) side of Versailles and order a pastry and another cafe cubano. Or wander inside and look over the pastry case. If you have time to sit and eat, enjoy a delicious breakfast here. After you finish, make a mental note to come back and pick up some pastries. The guava pastries are something you will remember forever.
Wander on down the street and enjoy the art and little shops. The older men rolling cigars and playing dominoes are an enjoyable sight. By this time, you will be ready for lunch; your options are endless. Some of the best places will not have websites, but let your nose do the walking. The "hole in the wall" joints serve some of the best Cuban food you will ever eat. Tostones are a must-have; they're fried plantains that look as though they have been battered, but are just twice-fried wonders. The black bean soups are delicious, served with chopped, raw onions. A Cuban sandwich is of course, a staple. If you will be around for a couple of days, try to see if you can find your favorite Cuban sandwich. Try El Pub (pronounced "poob") for at least one lunch. Arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) or ropa vieja are dishes that you simply have to try while in Miami. Ropa vieja literally means "torn clothes," referring to the meat, which is so tender it literally falls apart.
For ice cream, pop into any of the smaller places for a batido, a tropical shake made with fruit and sweetened condensed milk. The fresh fruit juices are also a must try. Try agua fresca, which is a watermelon juice. Los Piñarenos Fruteria is a must-see, as well as a must-try. This little open-air fruit and vegetable market also sells the batidos and fruit drinks. The owners are friendly and hospitable, and even if your Spanish is barely basic, they will gladly work with you and create a delicious treat.
For an ice cream treat, try Azucar Ice Cream. The flavors are creative, Cuban and delicious. From cafe con leche ice cream to guava, Coca Cola to mamey, your options are plenty and there is something to please everyone.
Another must-try is La Carreta, which bills itself as "Miami's Original Cuban Kitchen." Try their pudin (bread pudding) or tres leches (three-milk cake).
No matter what you eat or where you eat it, everything on Calle Ocho is delicious, authentic and inexpensive. Although the food will fill you for the day, the experiences and memories will fill you for a lifetime.
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