By: Kara Franker
Dining out in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.
Known for its vibrant cuisine, Little Haiti is a great place to experience authentic Haitian culture and flavors.
Part of Miami’s charm, and what makes it a truly metropolitan city, is the change in character you can experience within just a few blocks. Murals that commemorate significant events in Haitian history and heroic characters are on one side of the block right next to the bakeries and bodegas, while a trendy emerging area where hipsters are hanging out is on the other side of the block.
Little Haiti has seen a lot of change in the past few years as the Design District has grown and expanded and the creative class has started to call the area home.
A mix of French, African and Caribbean influences, Haitian cuisine offers a distinct taste of Creole culture. Serving dishes like chicken and cashews, cornmeal with beans and stewed chicken, a fried pork dish called “griot” and conch in Creole sauce, Little Haiti’s restaurant scene combines natural roots and hot spices with laid-back vibes and decades of Haitian culture and history. Featuring recipes that have been passed down through Caribbean families for generations, dining in Little Haiti is a treat.
And right below the blocks that make up Little Haiti proper, is a stretch that connects the area to the emerging Design District that’s lined with quaint cafes like the Buena Vista Bistro, Buena Vista Deli and Lemoni Café. All three are hip but homey joints with great food and friendly service. Here are more great options.
Open for more than 30 years, Leela’s Restaurant is a family owned restaurant that has gained a reputation for its delicious Haitian-meets-American cuisine. Led by Chef Devillien Lubin and Chef Marthe LaFrance, the menu includes simple, flavorful foods made with seasonal ingredients. For a Haitian classic, order the restaurant’s griot plate, combining fried pork, rice, peas and tostones. 5650 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33137
Crowds flock to Chef Ken Wilkinson’s Chef Creole restaurant, for his extra spicy seafood. With its tiki hut-inspired patio and tropical decor, this Caribbean-style spot has won its fair share of “best seafood restaurant” awards during its time. Order the seafood platter with shrimp, fish, lobster tail, fried conch, sweet plantains, rice and beans, and be sure to grab a bottle of Chef Wilkinson’s signature pikliz sauce on your way out. 200 NW 54th Street, Miami, FL 33127
Chez Le Bebe
Serving hearty Haitian food, Chez Le Bebe is an intimate restaurant that opened in the 1980s and has the self-proclaimed “best griot in town.” Choose your meat or fish, and get it served with huge portions of rice, beans, plantains and salad. Whatever you’re craving, be prepared to wait for it. Chez Le Bebe is so popular that it’s not uncommon to find a long line outside the main restaurant or by the pick-up window. 114 NE 54th Street, Miami, FL 33137
Fritay Fried Pork & Chicken
An unassuming hotspot, Fritay Fried Pork & Chicken is known for its deep-fried food, authentic Caribbean menu and casual vibes. The food is served quick and the menu features an impressive amount of fried food items, like fried chicken, which has been named the “best fried chicken in Miami.” When you go, order a watermelon soda--this sweet, refreshing drink is the restaurant’s specialty and a must-try. 12143 NW 7th Avenue, North Miami, FL 33168
After you've tried the area's best Haitian cuisine, head to Ironside Pizza for some of the best and most authentic Neapolitan-style pizza in town. It is named for the “Miami Ironside” complex in which it is located, an urban center catering to creatives, with 67 showrooms, studios, and co-working spaces. Order the margherita pizza, a classic pie with tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil. Ironside Pizza prides itself on using fresh, organic ingredients, homemade cured meats and carefully selected Italian products. 7580 NE 4th Court, Miami, FL 33138
On Biscayne Boulevard at the 55th Street Station, you'll find a community block of adorable shops like a curated vintage shop and an eclectic home store, as well as Soyka, a popular restaurant and lounge. Soyka is a local favorite with an airy dining room and a mouthwatering menu. This casual and comfortable eatery is perfect for meeting with friends or having a nice date night. Order a funky salad like the mango amd quinoa or a classic favorite like crispy calamari to start, following it with an entrée like a burger or seafood dish like lobster ravioli, porcini shrimp risotto or Florida snapper. Enjoy live jazz music on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. 5556 NE 4th Court, Miami, FL 33137
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