Cuban Food in Miami: What to Eat, Where to Go

La Carreta Little Havana Rooster

La Carreta Little Havana Rooster

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By: Shayne Benowitz

Cuban Food Primer

For foodies visiting Miami, sampling Cuban cuisine is a must. Read on for our primer on Cuban coffee, Cuban sandwiches, classic entrees and the best Cuban restaurants across Miami from Little Havana to South Beach.

Cuban Coffee

First up, the classic Cuban pick-me-up: coffee. Whether it’s a café con leche, cafecito, colada or cortadito, Cuban coffee is undeniably one of the most widely enjoyed drinks of Miami. Simply “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, frothy milk. Often you’ll find it complimented with pan Cubano (Cuban bread), which is commonly dunked in the coffee, making a perfect breakfast pairing.

Other Cuban pick me ups include the cafecito, colada and cortadito. The cafecito (sometimes called café Cubano) is the café con leche’s more aggressive cousin. 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. The cortadito is similar to a macchiato, a smaller variation on the Miami favorite where Cuban espresso is topped with steamed milk.

Pastelitos
Pastelitos

Cuban Snacks

Cuban finger foods are quick bites that you can savor at breakfast, lunch or as a snack to get you through the day. Look for empanadas, croquetas and pasteles, all of which are typically found in heated glass displays near the entrance of Cuban establishments. Empanadas are baked or fried pastries stuffed with anything from spicy beef to chicken or ham and cheese. Croquetas are fried béchamel fritters formed into fingers usually with ham or chicken and pasteles are sweet pastries often filled with guava and cream cheese.

Cuban Sandwiches

A traditional Cuban sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and yellow mustard, pressed between two slices of crusty Cuban bread, which is often lightly buttered or brushed with olive oil, similar in taste and shape to a French baguette. A smaller version of the Cuban sandwich is made with a sweeter egg bread roll and is called the medianoche (which means midnight) because it was originally consumed as a late night snack.

Pork, moros (black beans and rice), and sweet fried plantains
Pork, moros (black beans and rice), and sweet fried plantains

Cuban Entrees

At dinnertime, prepare for heartier entrees and classic Cuban dishes like arroz con pollo, ropa vieja, vaca frita or picadillo. These savory dishes incorporate stewed chicken, beef or pork with rice, vegetables and Cuban spices for a satisfying meal, usually accompanied by sweet fried plantains, yellow rice and black beans.

Where to Eat Cuban Food

Whether it’s a cortadito to get your day started or a medianoche for a midnight snack, these are some of our favorite Miami restaurants with mouthwatering, authentic Cuban cuisine.

Sergio's (six locations in Miami)

For over 40 years, Sergio’s has served authentic Cuban fare with locations on Coral Way, Bird Road, London Square, Doral, Kendall and Pembroke Pines. The family-owned, fast-casual concept also incorporates a healthy section into their menu. The mother and daughter duo, Elsa Rocha and Blanca Cabrera, are especially famous for their croqueta recipe, which they spent years refining into lightly fried perfection.

Little Havana

La Carreta

Miami's Original Cuban Kitchen, La Carreta, was founded on Little Havana's famous Calle Ocho back in 1976. This restaurant holds firm to the old Cuba family-style dining traditions and food. From its famed croquetas to authentic Cuban vaca frita, ropa vieja and boliche, La Carreta serves up classic Cuban flavors that would make Abuela proud. This (one of several Miami locations) will be the first place you want to hit up when you start to feel "Tengo hambre; quiero jama."

Chicken and yellow rice (arroz con pollo)
Chicken and yellow rice (arroz con pollo)

Versailles

Since 1971, Versailles has been a local gathering spot for the Cuban diaspora and one of Calle Ocho’s most popular restaurants. The décor features golden chandeliers and cut glass mirrors as a throwback to the Hall of Mirrors in its namesake, the French palace Versailles. However, the sprawling restaurant has a decidedly casual diner vibe. You’ll find every staple of Cuban cuisine on the menu here, from ham croquetas to Cuban sandwiches, cafecitos and heaping portions ropa vieja with yellow rice, black beans and fried sweet plantains.

Islas Canarias

Islas Canarias is a no-frills 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. Don’t be surprised if there’s a wait when you arrive as this is one of Miami’s most popular Cuban restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Service is swift and efficient, so you’ll snag your table in no time.

Cuban sandwich
Cuban sandwich

Sanguich De Miami

For a newfangled spin on the Cuban sandwich, head to the popular Sanguich De Miami on Calle Ocho. This stylish luncheonette is decked out in Spanish tiles floors, bold green walls and brass fixtures as an ode to Cuba's Spanish-inspired architecture and design. Of course, what keeps locals coming back are its mouthwatering sandwiches. Whether it's the classic Cubano made with spiced ham or the sanguich de Miami, a Cuban spin on the turkey and ham club, you'll sink your teeth into high quality ingredients and a sanguich made with love!

Wynwood

Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop

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.

South Beach

Larios on the Beach

Owned by Miami local celebrities, 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 restaurant 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.

Cuban coffee
Cuban coffee

Puerto Sagua

Head to Puerto Sagua on Collins Avenue for Cuban classics like the Cuban sandwich made of marinated pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard pressed between flaky Cuban bread, or ropa vieja, a savory beef stew marinated with peppers, tomatoes and onions and served with rice, beans and sweet plantains. Don’t leave without a shot of strong, sweet Cuban coffee to get you through your day.

Coconut Grove

Chug’s Diner

From Michael Beltran and the team behind Coconut Grove’s sophisticated Ariete, Chug’s is a down home Cuban diner inspired by holiday family dinners. The menu serves up unexpected twists on classic dishes, like the Cuban sandwich as an ode to the New Orleans’ muffuletta made with country pate, cornichons and gouda or the duck media noche made with duck confit, orange mustard, honey ham, Swiss and house-made pickles. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner inside a sun-filled dining room in the heart of Coconut Grove.

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