Miami

Miami's Must-Try Cuban Restaurants

Filed Under: Florida, Miami, Restaurants

Cuban culture infuses Miami's dining scene; in fact, more than 34% of the city's population hails from the Caribbean island. This pervasive -- and tasty -- presence is a boon for foodies, and means there's stiff competition among Cuban restaurant's to dish out the city's best island fare. Whether you're seeking a strong cuppa Cuban coffee, having a late-night craving for fall-off-the-bone tender braised pork or hoping to get your fill of gooey, sweet fried plantains, these Cuban restaurants in Miami will whet your appetite … and leave you craving more delicioso meals.

John Hyun, flickr
Versailles
If you can only eat one Cuban meal in Miami -- the horror! -- make it a late-night dinner at Versailles on Calle Ocho (8th Street) in the heart of Little Havana. To eat at Versailles is to experience Miami's superlative Cuban restaurant: The sprawling restaurant has been dishing up authentic Cuban food for more than 40 years, and has earned its mark as the city's iconic Cuban establishment.

Stop by Versailles early in the morning to see older men sipping cortaditos (Cuban coffees), or pop by the busy take-out window at lunchtime to grab a traditional Cubano sandwich, sweet ham, roast pork and Swiss cheese on toasted Cuban bread with mustard and pickles. But really, the highlight of a trip to Versailles is during prime dinner hours, which for the local Cuban population starts sometime after 9 p.m. As the night rolls on, the place fills up with local Cuban exiles and politicos, chattering together and enjoying traditional meals like vaca frita, shredded beef fried with onions and served with moro, a mix of black beans and white rice.
Chris Goldberg
Puerto Sagua
A far cry from the Latin-infused streets of Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, in the midst of the neon-lit chaos that permeates South Beach, lies one of the city's tastiest Cuban restaurants, Puerto Sagua. This local icon may be more than a bit dated on the interior (hey, who doesn't love 3-dimensional wall murals of Old Havana?), and sure, it can get clogged with tourists and unruly club-goers during spring break, but stick out the wait for a table and you'll be rewarded with a delectable Cuban meal.

It's tough to get a bad meal at Puerto -- we've been visiting here for a few years and still haven't been disappointed -- but there are a few standouts on the menu, most notably, the filete salteado, strips of beef tenderloin sauteed with peppers and a special sauce, and the pernil asado, pork shoulder braised with onions in its own juices and spices. Start your meal with an order of croquetas con jamon, chockfull of ham chunks, and end it with the homemade flan, topped with a decadently rich caramel sauce.
Josue Goge, flickr
Sergio's
Sergio's opened 40 years ago as a small sandwich stand started by Cuban exiles to Miami. Today it has morphed into a mini-empire of 4 restaurants with a reputation for serving excellent Cuban meals from the wee hours of the morning into the late evening. Start your day with what may easily be one of the best breakfast deals in Miami -- El Mezclado, a platter of 2 scrambled eggs with ham, served with tostada, Cuban toast and a strong Cuban coffee.

As the lunch and dinner hours approach, Sergio's whips up a selection of 20 Cuban-style sandwiches including the classic cubano and the pan con bistec, thinly sliced grilled steak and onions topped with tomatoes, a hearty pile of shoestring fries and served on buttered Cuban toast. Have a late-night craving? Two of Sergio's locations are open 24 hours on weekends. We suggest popping in along with a slew of local Cubans, and satisfying your hunger with a hearty churrasco, a skirt steak grilled to perfection and served with mild or spicy chimichurri sauce. Come on, it's Cuban food -- you gotta go spicy!
Wally Gobetz, flickr
El Palacio de Los Jugos
Foodies on the prowl for Miami's best Cuban must pay a visit to El Palacio de Los Jugos, a Cuban institution with multiple locations throughout the city. While all El Palacio's outposts are generally raved about, check out the one on Flagler Street and 57th Avenue for an unforgettable -- and delectable -- experience. Only caveat? Bring a Hulk-sized appetite.

More outdoor marketplace than sit-down restaurant, El Palacio features a number of hot-food counters with traditional Cuban grub that runs the gamut from fresh juices like papaya and guava (in fact, El Palacio de Los Jugos translates to "Juice Palace") to ropa vieja, shredded beef stewed in tomatoes and spices, and perhaps El Palacio's most popular offering, chicharrones, crispy fried pork rinds.

Head bravely to one of the prepared food counters and order a plato, which is actually a Styrofoam container filled with a solid 2 pounds of rice, beans, plantains and the entree of your choice (we couldn't get enough shredded pork or ropa vieja). Head to one of the outdoor tables and watch the world go by as you stuff yourself to bursting. Wash that goodness down with a fresh, thick mango juice, and you'll be sated for many hours to come.
Thinkstock
Exquisito Restaurant
Tucked inconspicuously along Calle Ocho, Little Havana's main drag, Exquisito Restaurant's appeal is no secret. For more than 30 years the Coro family has been serving their Cuban cuisine to hungry locals and tourists. The restaurant regularly attracts the attention of media outlets for its tasty, traditional Cuban specialties, while budget-conscious diners flock here to indulge some of the neighborhood's most wallet-friendly meals.

Start your day with one of Exquisito's breakfast deals, like the small steak with 2 eggs, fries, toast and cafe con leche. If you arrive later in the day or evening, order the vaca frita, and ask for a side of malanga, a type of root vegetable, served with mojo, a tangy uber-garlicky sauce. Consider a visit to Exquisito and Little Havana on the popular Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays), a monthly street festival and arts gallery stroll through the neighborhood.

About the Author

Valerie Conners is a freelance writer, editor and producer who has worked with the Travel Channel for more than 14 years, specializing in travel topics including the world's best beaches, outdoor travel and romantic getaways. Her work also appears in many online and print publications including, Aol Travel, Discovery Channel, World Hum, Frommer's Travel Guides, the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun and Philadelphia Inquirer. She's happiest when eating spicy Thai food, snorkeling with sea turtles in Indonesia and bargaining for bangles in Indian markets. She blogs about her travels at PassengerConners.com.

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