Miami's Must-Try Cuban Restaurants
Sample the best Cuban food at these renowned restaurants in Miami.
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 restaurants to dish out the city's best island fare. These Cuban restaurants in Miami will whet your appetite, and leave you craving more delicioso meals.
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 three-dimensional wall murals of Old Havana?), and sure, it can get clogged with tourists and unruly club-goers during spring break, but the food is worth the wait.
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.
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 two eggs, fries, toast and cafe con leche. If you arrive later in the day, 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.
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 9pm. 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.
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 container filled with a solid two 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.
Sergio's opened over 40 years ago as a small sandwich stand started by Cuban exiles. Today it has morphed into a mini-empire with multiple locations and 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 two 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!
Filling the hungry bellies of North Miami residents for years, Little Havana serves authentic Cuban delicacies locals continue to rave about. This family-owned restaurant serves an array of traditional Cuban meals and drinks, attracting customers from all cultural backgrounds. Approaching this enormous menu can be pretty overwhelming, so a great way to start is to go with the Taste of Havana, which gives you a literal taste of everything, including pork, chicken, tamal (dough steamed in corn husk), fried yuca, croquettes (fried breadcrumb roll with ground meat, shellfish, fish, ham, cheese, mashed potatoes and vegetables) and mariquitas (plantain chips), and order a Coco Havana, rum and pineapple with a cherry.
Once you’re finished scarfing down that starter and washing it down with the drink, go for the house special bistec con Salsa Chimichurri, their juicy steak served with their homemade Chimichurri sauce, and add a side of their crispy tostones. Not in the mood for meat? Little Havana offers a vegetarian combination dish with white rice, black beans, plantains and mixed vegetables. At this point, you're convinced you don't have room in that belly for anything else, but your eyes take a little stroll to the dessert section of the menu and you must compromise. Order yourself a Crema Catalana, a custard dessert, and their guava cheese flan. You won’t regret it.
A family-owned establishment, La Carreta first opened in 1976 by Cuban exiles who found refuge in Miami, and they’ve been satisfying the whopping appetites of Miami residents since then. Start with the shrimp pineapple tostones, which are fried green plantains stuffed with shrimp in a pineapple and cilantro sauce. Yes, it tastes as good as it sounds. Then, make your way to the Vaca Frita, shredded beef grilled with onions, served with rice and sweet plantains. Not in the mood for just beef? They have a wide variety of pork dishes, but if you must choose just one, go for the Cuban Sampler, with a little bit of everything. It includes ground beef picadillo, roast pork, ham croquette, tamale, yuca, white rice, black beans and sweet plantains. Yeah, I know, you can’t go wrong with this one. They have a wide assortment of cheesecakes, but make sure you splurge for the Dulce de Leche cheesecake, it’s like no other you’ve tasted before, with just the right amount of sweetness dancing around your taste buds.
On Espanola Way lies Havana 1957, a Cuban restaurant that is unique to other dining experiences. This throwback restaurant offers its customers a traditional Cuban menu, with a gallery of old photographs hanging on the walls. This old-time decor will have you feeling like it’s the 50s and you’re back in Havana. Start with their truffle yucca fries and the masitas de Puerco, fried cubed pork served with grilled onions and Cuban mojo.
Once you’re done obsessing over the faultlessly seasoned pork, order a classic Cubano, a ham, cheese and roasted pork sandwich, with pickles and mustard on the toasted Cuban bread. If you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, you can’t go wrong with the Fricase de Pollo, chicken pieces marinated in citrus juice, garlic cloves, onions and bell peppers, served with white rice and sweet plantains. Your taste buds will love you once you order the tres leches dessert, along with the guava cheesecake.