Explore Calle Ocho In Little Havana

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Calle Ocho Rooster

cigar cafe

Enjoy the best in cuban coffee and hand rolled cigars

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Old's Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina

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By: Carolina Cardona

Bienvenido

Calle Ocho is the center of Cuban life and culture in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Declared a “national treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this vibrant and iconic enclave is known for its authentic Cuban restaurants, popular ventanitas, warm and toasty Cuban bakeries and street festivals that are too colorful for words.

Jump straight into the action with a guided “insider” walking tour offered by Corrina Moebius of LittleHavanaGuide.com, including the two-and-a-half-hour “Secrets of Little Havana Tour,” an insightful journey that stimulates all your senses.

Domino Park
Watch the locals play at Domino Park

The Domino Effect

Head to the quintessential hangout for Cuban exiles on the corner of Calle Ocho (Southwest 8th Street) and 15th Avenue: Maximo Gomez Park. Also known as Domino Park, this is where you find the real Little Havana locals smoking cigars and discussing the latest headlines over a game of dominoes, while local families frolic and groups gather for outdoor yoga before sunset.

Tower Theatre

Next to Domino Park you’ll find Tower Theater, a historic movie theater built in 1926. It used to be a gathering spot where Cuban immigrants went to watch Spanish movies with English subtitles in order to learn English. Today, this Art Deco-style building is owned by Miami Dade College and is a hotspot for cultural events. The Tower Theater also hosts a series of educational presentations like alternative Cuban exhibitions and performances, free educational lectures by Miami Dade College faculty and both Spanish and English-language films.

Cuban Memorial Boulevard

Located at the intersection of Calle Ocho and Southwest 13th Avenue, Cuban Memorial Boulevard pays homage to Cuban soldiers who fought in the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban War of Independence. You’ll find a string of seven small monuments throughout this stretch of road, including those honoring Cuban independence fighter Antonio Maceo Grajales and anti-communist crusader Tony Izquierdo. Additionally, check out the statues of the Virgin Mary and a 16-foot raised map of the island of Cuba with an inscription by patriot José Martí that reads, "La patria es agonia y deber,” which translates to “The homeland is agony and duty.”

Cultural Reflections

The Calle Ocho Music Festival is the largest Hispanic street festival and block party in the southeastern United States. This annual event attracts more than a million attendees and celebrates the diversity of Hispanic culture. From street performers and eight stages with live Latin acts, to salsa, conga lines and Latin street food, this festival is just one more reason to celebrate in Little Havana.

Cuban cigars
Watch the cigar masters roll cigars on Calle Ocho

Cuban Cigar Shops

If you visited Calle Ocho and didn’t try a Cuban cigar, did you really visit Calle Ocho? Walk along Little Havana’s most famous street and you’ll find a range of family owned cigar shops. Some of the more popular establishments include El Titan de Bronze and Cuban Crafters, but walk into any you find and you’ll see age-old cigar masters rolling cigars just like their fathers and grandfathers taught them in Cuba. To make sure every premium cigar is rolled to perfection, each roller specializes on one type only. All cigars are carefully inspected to ensure each cigar meets only the highest standard.

Versailles
Versailles Restaurant serves up all the classics like the Cuban Sandwich

Cuban Dining

Calle Ocho is home to some of the best and most authentic Cuban fare around. Start your day by ordering Cuban bread: crisp, flaky and buttered to perfection; along with a cafecito (a strong, thimble-sized cup of sweet Cuban espresso) from any ventanita, or coffee window. Then, move on to savor staples like croquetas (croquettes stuffed with chicken, fish or ham) or ropa vieja (a hearty shredded beef stew). You’ll find restaurants everywhere you turn, but a definite must-try spot is the legendary Versailles Restaurant.

One of Calle Ocho’s most beloved sandwich shops is Sanguich de Miami. Its legendary croqueta preparada is a croquette sandwich so delicious it will haunt your dreams. With only 25 seats and irresistible “old timey” décor with colorful stamped concrete tiles, this establishment makes you feel like you’re sipping coffee in Old Havana. From the premium meats that go into each of the deliciously melty sandwiches right down to the homemade condiments, everything in this cozy Little Havana spot feels thoughtful and authentic.

Azucar Ice Cream
Stop by Azucar Ice Cream Company for unique flavors

Have a sweet tooth? After your meal, swing by Azucar Ice Cream Company. This artisanal ice cream parlor’s main draw is its imaginative menu of more than 100 tropical flavors such as café con leche (coffee with milk), plátano maduro (fried plantain) and flan; all tasty Cuban treats re-imagined into cold and creamy ice cream flavors perfect for a hot day.

Ball & Chain
Learn to salsa at Ball & Chain

Live Music and Dancing

When was the last time you followed the dance steps of legends? Ball & Chain is a restored jazz era nightclub where luminaries like Billie Holiday, Chet Baker and Count Basie performed during the 1950s. On any given night, the storied bar’s open courtyard and illuminated Pineapple Stage host live music acts and all-night dancing for the happening crowd that comes back again and again for the enticing menu of craft Mojitos and tasty tapas. From salsa to mambo and even DJ parties that spill out onto the street, this legendary bar is pumping now more than ever with the “in” crowd.

Calle Ocho's Coolest Bars

You need a place to cool your heels after all that dancing. Good thing you won’t need to walk too far to find trendy local bars that serve inventive brews. Right in the middle of Little Havana’s cool art district, you will run into Union Beer Store, a craft beer taproom, beer market and growler bar that offers good eats and even better sips. With its changing selection of craft brews like the “Imperial Smells Like Bean Spirit - Hot Chocolate Stout” and “Faust Sour,” you can’t help but be intrigued. The perfect pour also awaits at Bar Nancy. Named for the brigantine Nancy, which transported war supplies during the American Revolution, this nautical-themed neighborhood bar offers cocktails named after ships and patriotic themes.

Cafe La Trova
Enjoy delicious Cuban food alongside curated cocktails at Cafe La Trova

Everyone wants to make a stop at Cafe La Trova: chef Michelle Bernstein’s collaboration with master mixologist, Julio Cabrera. Not only is this new take on modern Cuban cuisine a big hit with foodies, but the vibe of the outdoor patio is a definite draw for a little cocktail-sipping, some cigar-smoking and a lot of domino-playing.

Another great option to chill and sip is Los Altos. That is, if you manage to find it! This Insta-worthy upscale cocktail lounge is a surprising wonderland of velvet-draped seating, gold leaf ceilings and salvaged doors. But the setting is only half the appeal at this speakeasy that serves up tequila and mezcal-infused potions.

It’s late now, dinner was a long time ago and all those cocktails have you craving something savory. And maybe even a little kitschy. Before you know it, you’ve entered a sanctuary, a hacienda-style space decorated with religious altars and bright luchador masks. El Santo Taquería’s menu proudly boasts six different types of tacos and you’ll want to try them all. Its sister establishment, El Santo Restaurant, features sharable plates featuring Asian, Peruvian and Latin influences. Walking through the massive wooden front doors into the dining room feels like stepping into an abandoned church where an antique chapel piano serves as the DJ booth. Further inside, you’ll find your way to Don Diablo, a cavernous speakeasy that sets the vibe of an offbeat cantina with a wood-beamed ceiling draped in vines and sugar skull murals. Right then and there you realize you’ve spent an evening that has been as eclectic as Calle Ocho itself!

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