9 Things to in Little Havana, Miami

Little Havana in Miami is one of the most unique neighborhoods in the US — definitely reminiscent of the country where many of its residents came from (Cuba). Having gone to Cuba in the same year, it was really cool to see all the reminders of that culture. For any visitors to Miami, I highly recommend getting out to Little Havana for a day — which is centered around the famous Calle 8 (Calle Ocho).

1. Have an authentic Cuban dinner. Considering my love of food, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is my first 4 recommendations in Little Havana are all about food. This really is the best place to try authentic Cuban food outside of Cuba itself, though. Versailles Cafe is famous for its Cuban food (as well as pastries, which can be bought at a walk-up window). It opens at 8am for breakfast, and by lunchtime, there is usually a line out the door — so get here early or make a reservation. It’s a bit further away from all the other spots on Calle 8, though — so for something more central, Old’s Havana is a fantastic destination. It’s much smaller, but also has a bit more of that upbeat Havana vibe — as there is often live music here on the weekends. Cafe La Trova is also a must-mention, as it has a James Beard chef, as well as live Trova musicians at night (classic Cuban guitar and vocals). Cuban dishes to try on any menu if you see them: lechon asado (roast pork), ropa vieja (shredded beef), and rabo estofado (oxtail stew).

2. Visit El Pub for the empanadas. Honestly, the restaurants above probably have fantastic empanadas, too. And El Pub also has a fantastic oxtail stew on Saturdays. But I’m choosing to separate it, just because it was such a great little patio to grab a mojito and some empanadas on — so I’d recommend it more for a quick daytime stop vs. dinner. The “jamon y queso” (ham and cheese) empanadas are the must-try, of course.

3. Grab a Cuban sandwich at Sanguich de Miami. Ever since this spot got a Michelin bib gourmand mention, there’s been a line out the door for their Cuban sandwiches. Since there is seating for no more than 20 people inside this tiny little spot, many people just grab a sandwich to go. We waited in the hot sun for probably an hour to snag a spot at the bar inside and try one of their famous Cuban sandwiches. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

4. Cool down at Azucar Ice Cream Company, which creates artisanal gourmet ice creams and sorbets in Cuban and tropical flavors. At first, I didn’t understand the hype about an ice cream spot, but on a hot Florida day, this is an absolute must just to cool down. Plus, they have unique flavors like café con leche, mantecado (Cuban vanilla), platano maduro, willy cherino (bourbon ice cream with dark cherries), dulce de leche, key lime pie, cuatro leches, coconut flan, and many more.

5. Try some authentic Cuban cocktails. These include the famous mojito and daiquiri of course, which can come in a variety of tropical flavors (or just the classic). Mojitos are made with white rum, sugar, lime, mint, and soda (all on ice) — while daquiris are usually frozen blended cocktails with rum, sugar, lime, and some sort of fruit. One of the most refreshing and simplest cocktails that I love, though, is the Cuba Libre — which is just a classic Cola and rum on ice.

6. Stop at domino park. Officially named “Maximo Gomez Park” — but is lovingly called “Domino Park” — this is actually not much of a park at all. There are very few trees, but lots of tables and chairs filled with older gentlemen playing dominos. It’s a cool part of Cuban culture to get a glimpse of — and right next to it are those famous Calle 8 mosaics inlaid into the colorful walls.

7. Go mural hunting. Aside from the lovely mosaics next to Domino Park, there are a couple of cool murals to check out around the area. Next to Chase Bank at 2614 SW 8th Street is the old, postcard-like “Little Havana” mural — and on the side of Sushi Sake is the bright and colorful newer Little Havana mural. I also absolutely love the colorful rooster statue with “Calle 8” on it outside El Pub — and at the right angle, you can capture the long, horizontal “Havana” high on the walls of the building across the street (above the “I Love You Miami” sign). And being a huge Pitbull fan, I can’t not mention the fabulous Mr. 305 mural at 1380 Calle Ocho.

8. Lounge, listen to music, or go dancing at the Ball & Chain historic bar. Ball & Chain is a restored jazz-era nightclub where luminaries like Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, and Count Basie performed during the 1950s. Today, it is a mix of tropical-themed bar & restaurant, laid-back backyard lounge, and Cuban nightclub. There is often live music here day and night, live salsa (lessons and dancing), karaoke, DJs, and more.

9. Watch cigars be rolled at a cigar factory. There are a variety of spots in Little Havana for this — and Casa Habano comes highly recommended. You can get a little “tour” and learn about Cuban cigar making, watch cigars being rolled, and buy your favorites.

And that’s all folks! Feel free to contact me with any questions.