Cuban Food 101
By: Kara Franker
Try one of these authentic Cuban restaurants for an authentic taste of Miami's best restaurants.
Cuban culture is as important to Miami’s colorful framework as it’s sun, sand and surf. Let's start with a breakdown of some of the most popular Cuban food and beverage options.
First up, the classic Cuban pick-me-up – coffee. Be it a café con leche, cafecito, colada or cortadito, coffee is undeniably one of the most widely enjoyed drinks of South Florida. Simply meaning “coffee with milk,” a café con leche is a breakfast staple, typically served at a 50/50 ratio of highly caffeinated Cuban coffee and hot milk. Often, you’ll find it complimented by Cuban bread (or Pan Cubano), which is commonly dunked in the coffee, making a perfect breakfast pairing.
Other Cuban kick-starts include the cafecito, colada and cortadito. The cafecito (sometimes called the “Café Cubano”) is the café con leche’s more aggressive cousin. But don’t be fooled by its petite size; this sweetened shot of Cuban espresso packs a punch that will keep your heart pumping throughout the day. A colada is simply several cafecitos in one cup and is meant for sharing between four to six friends. Similar to a latte, the cortadito is another variation on this Miami favorite and consists of Cuban espresso, topped with steamed milk.
Latin finger foods are quick bites to be savored during breakfast or lunch or as a snack throughout the day. Look out for empanadas, croquetas, and pasteles: all of which are typically found in heated glass displays near the entrances of Latin food establishments. One of the more popular sandwiches to march onto mainstream American menus is the Cuban sandwich a.k.a. Medianoche. A traditional Cuban consists of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and yellow mustard, tightly pressed between two slices of Cuban bread. Cuban bread is often lightly buttered or brushed with olive oil and is similar in taste and shape to a French baguette. But if a sandwich isn’t satisfying enough, you’ll want to look towards arroz con pollo, ropa vieja, vaca frita, or picadillo.
From an early morning cortadito, to a Medianoche sandwich for lunch or dinner, these Miami restaurants promise mouthwatering Cuban food like you’ve never had before.
Versailles in Little Havana
Since 1971, Versailles Restaurant has been a local gathering spot and one of Calle Ocho’s most popular locales. The décor features golden chandeliers and surrounding mirrors, showcasing a throwback to the Hall of Mirrors in France’s Versailles Palace. And the restaurant serves up an extensive menu of classic Cuban cuisine. Nosh on ham croquetas, Medianoche sandwiches, Cuban coffee and heaping portions of rice and black beans or fried sweet plantains. 3555 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135
Islas Canarias in Little Havana
Islas Canarias is a tiny, no-fluff spot packed with hungry patrons craving a taste of authentic Cuban cuisine. Start with the pigs' feet la andaluza, oxtail stew or bistec uruguayo, and end with the sweet tocino del cielo, a flan made with egg yolks and cinnamon syrup. Either way, prepare to wait: as one of Miami’s most popular Cuban watering holes, expected long lines outside the door during breakfast, lunch and dinner. 285 NW 27th Avenue, Miami, FL 33125
Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop in Wynwood
Despite what its name implies, Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop is a cafeteria-style eatery in Wynwood where locals go for good, hearty Cuban food. From Cuban bread and cortaditos, to staples like pan con bistec, lechon asado and filete de cherna, this casual spot promises plates large enough to take home for lunch, dinner and maybe even lunch again the next day. 186 NE 29th Street, Miami, FL 33137
El Tucan in Brickell
As Miami’s hottest Cuban supper club, El Tucan is a throw back to the glitz and glam of 1940’s Havana. Pairing cabaret with haute Cuban cuisine by Chef Jean Paul Lourdes, this one-of-a-kind spot has dinner seatings from Thursday to Saturday, as well as a resident 11-piece Latin orchestra, led by two-time Grammy award-winning artist, Marlow Rosado. 1111 SW 1st Avenue, Miami, FL 33130
Larios on the Beach in South Beach
Owned by celebrities and Miami locals, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Larios on the Beach is known for its prime Ocean Drive location, award-winning Cuban cuisine and world-famous mojitos. Hearty food aside, health-conscious Ropa Vieja lovers will be happy to know that the locale also boasts a “Triple C” menu (Calorie Conscious Cuban), which features tasty, guilt-free Cuban staples, like vegetarian black beans, baked plantains and grilled meat and fish. 820 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33139
Sergio's (six locations in Miami)
Authentic Cuban cuisine has been served for the last 40 years at Sergio's, a family-owned eatery with locations on Coral Way, Bird Road, London Square, Doral, Kendall and Pembroke Pines. The fast-casual concept serves authentic Cuban food in addition to a healthy menu. Mother and daughter team Elsa Rocha and Blanca Cabrera purchased the business it the early '80's (it’s been operating since 1975) and they spent four years perfecting their croquetta recipe, which are lightly fried to perfection. 3252 SW 22nd Street, Miami, FL 33145
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